A campaign backed by Stephen Fry has been launched by Time to Change, the mental health anti-stigma programme run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, to offer Picture Editors alternative images to the simplistic and stigmatising ‘headclutcher’ (head in hands)  shot that often accompanies media stories about mental health problems.

Get the Picture builds on campaigning by mental health activists and a recent survey of nearly 2,0001 people who said that the ‘headclutcher’ image was stigmatising (58%), and that it made others think that people with mental health problems should look depressed all of the time (76%). Over 80% also said the image did not convey how it feels to have a mental health problem.

The survey also found that a third of people (30%) said that seeing images of suicide or self harm triggered their own suicidal feelings.

As part of the ‘Get the Picture’ campaign, a new set of high-quality images to accompany media stories about mental health problems will be freely available. The bank of images have been taken by photographic agency Newscast and are supported by the UK Picture Editors’ Guild.

As well as people with mental health problems, Time to Change consulted Picture Editors and journalists to find out if they would use alternatives to the ‘headclutcher’ image. The majority agreed these images could be stigmatising and that they would prefer to use alternatives if they were available.

Four people with personal experience of mental health problems are featured in some of the new images.   The look and feel of many of the shots were also directly informed by comments made in the survey which asked respondents about their suggestions for imagery that would best depict mental health problems.

Rehaan Ansari, 24, a medical student at Newcastle University, is one of four people with experience of mental health problems to feature in the campaign.

Rehaan Ansari said:

“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.”

Alan Sparrow, UK Picture Editors’ Guild Chairman, said:

“This marks the first time in 40 years that the Guild has associated itself with a charity. I have chosen to support this campaign as 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 that is so often used to illustrate stories about mental health."

Sue Baker, Director of Time to Change, said:

“We recognise that mental health can be a complex topic to illustrate, which is perhaps why we’ve seen so much use of an over simplistic ‘headclutcher’ shot over the years.

“For some time, campaigners have been highlighting the negative impact of the image in the media so we wanted to combine our efforts and come up with a way of offering picture editors a fresh and more realistic range of photographs. These images are freely available to all media, and we hope to add to the bank of photos over time. We urge picture editors to use them and say goodbye to the headclutcher once and for all.”

The other people with experience of mental health problems featuring in the new images are Martin Clemons, 56, a Mind worker from Coventry, Jessica Kwamin, 22, a music performance management student from High Wycombe and Clare Wyke, 42, PALS and Patient Experience Manager, Yorkshire and Humber Commissioning Support, NHS.


For more information please contact Karen Hart, Senior Media Officer at Time to Change at k.hart@time-to-change.org.uk or call 0208 2152 341 / 07584 003 703. 


1Time to Change survey December 2014 – January 2015: 1,980 respondents

Notes to Editors

Stephen Fry is not available for interview.

For access to a range of free images to accompany mental health news stories please visit: http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/getthepicture. These images have been developed by the anti stigma campaign Time to Change, run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, and funded by the Department of Health, Comic Relief and the Big Lottery Fund.

Time to Change

Time to Change is England's most ambitious programme to end the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems. The programme is run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, and funded by the Department of Health, Comic Relief and the Big Lottery Fund. For more information go to www.time-to-change.org.uk

Department of Health

On 2 February 2011 the Department of Health launched No health without mental health, a cross-government mental health outcomes strategy for people of all ages which has the twin aims of keeping people well and improving their mental health and, when people are not well, improving their outcomes through high-quality services.

The strategy is based on six shared objectives, developed with partners from across the mental health sector, and focuses on ‘Recovery’ and the reduction of stigma and discrimination as overarching themes. 

To help deliver the objective to reduce the stigma faced by people with mental health problems, in 2011 the Department agreed to support Time to Change, the anti-stigma campaign run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness.

Comic Relief

Comic Relief is committed to supporting people living with mental health problems. The projects Comic Relief funds ensure people with mental health problems get their voices heard in the decisions that affect their lives and get the help they need to recover. Comic Relief also helps people to promote their rights and reduce the stigma and discrimination they face so that they feel more included in society. The funding of Time to Change represents Comic Relief’s largest UK grant and is part of the organisation’s long standing commitment to this issue. For more information go to www.comicrelief.com.

Big Lottery Fund

Big Lottery Fund supported the first phase of Time to Change with funding of over £20million, and in 2013 awarded the programme a further £3.6m from its Well-being programme to build on its success and work with targeted communities. Big Lottery Fund also supported the campaign’s roll out across Wales. They will be providing a further £1.1m to support the Time to Change campaign in 2015-16.

The Fund is responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised by the National Lottery and invests over £650 million a year in projects big and small in health, education, environment and charitable purposes. Since June 2004 we have awarded over £6.5billion to projects that make a difference to people and communities in need, from early years intervention to commemorative travel funding for World War Two veterans.