Images are an extremely powerful way of telling a story and the photos that accompany articles in the media have great impact. Mental health is a broad and complex topic to illustrate, but we're campaigning to help newspapers, TV and magazines to get it right. 

Very often, we see an image of a person holding their head in their hands. All manner of mental health stories - about anything from talking treatments to scientific research - are illustrated by a 'headclutcher' photo. But what alternatives to the 'headclutcher' and other stigmatising images do picture editors have?

We're launching our Get the Picture campaign with a wide range of images, that are free to download from our own page on the Newscast website. They are hi-res and suitable to be published alongside news stories and features. We want picture editors to have a real choice of realistic and relevant photos to bring reports about mental health to life.

'People with mental health problems don’t look depressed all the time'

We believe that a picture can be just as damaging as words when used to depict stories about mental illness.

And, crucially, we asked members of the public who support our charities for their views. Nearly 2,000 responded:

  • Eight in 10 people told us headclutchers don’t show how it feels to have a mental health problem
  • Images of suicide may trigger suicidal feelings – one in three reported these
  • People with mental health problems don’t look depressed all the time

We brought together highly experienced newspaper staff and mental health activists to help create the images. We’re delighted that The UK Picture Editors’ Guild supports our campaign.

‘Our members can have a powerful effect on the portrayal of mental health problems via images in the media. We hope to dissuade our industry from using the ‘headclutcher’ image‘ – chairman Alan Sparrow

Real people at the centre of the Get the Picture campaign

We believe it’s important to portray real people. Some of our images feature people with personal experience of mental health problems - like Time to Change supporter Rehaan.

‘The ‘headclutcher’ is an unfair and inaccurate representation of what life is like with a mental health condition – but it’s often the image most commonly associated with people who experience them.

‘It’s definitely time to change the backwards attitude that mental health conditions are something to be ashamed of’ - Rehaan Ansari, medical student at Newcastle University and Get the Picture model

What can you do to help?

  • Picture editors - look for an image that is truly relevant to the story; think about mental health problems as you would when portraying other illnesses; avoid ‘headclutcher’ shots; be sensitive when illustrating stories about suicide and self-harm.
  • Members of the public - take a fun ‘headclutcher’ selfie, and tweet it with #GoodbyeHeadclutcher; if you see a picture you think mental health problems in the media, contact that outlet directly, and tweet them with #GetThePicture.
  • Picture agencies - weed out ‘headclutchers’ and other stigmatising pictures from your image libraries; make sure your categories and keywords can help picture editors find appropriate images easily; commission your own range of positive images.
  • Photographers - think of new creative ways to portray mental health problems; use a diverse range of people; take more shots of people being listened to and supported by others.