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Top mental health experts ask media not to create panic around Covid-19, criticise negative reporting from crematoriums

The open letter criticized the mainstream media's overtly negative, dower and opportunistic coverage of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Senior Professor of Psychiatry and the current Director of NIMHANS, Dr. BN Gangadhar along with other esteemed mental health professionals called upon the media to avoid “panic-inducing coverage” through an open letter. The health experts issued an open letter criticising the media for reporting Covid-19 deaths from crematoriums and creating hysteria and panic among the people. The letter goes into detail regarding the various mental health problems a person encounters when bombarded with overtly negative and pessimistic media coverage around the clock.

“Mass media has the power to communicate to millions at the same time. When the reach is so huge, every word, every image, and every nuance matters. However, what we are seeing on our TV screens, mobile screens and newspapers is disconcerting, to put it very mildly.” the letter reads, establishing the responsibility of the mainstream media.

The letter criticized the mainstream media’s overtly negative, dower and opportunistic coverage of the Coronavirus pandemic.

“Images of bodies burning in cremation grounds, relatives of the deceased wailing inconsolably, emotional outbursts, and hysterical reporters with cameramen swarming over the bereaved who are going through deeply emotional moments – this may help garner eyeballs. But there is a steep price to be paid for such coverage.” the letter goes on.

In order to demonstrate their point, the health professionals put forth an illustration in the letter.

“Imagine someone has just tested positive for COVID-19. If they have witnessed the panic-inducing coverage from cremation grounds, it keeps weighing on their minds and their loved ones. The fact that a huge number of people who are infected by COVID-19 recover becomes immaterial. Only images and emotions stay with them.”

The mental health doctors emphasized the need for a positive mindset and requested the media to avoid “panic-inducing” coverage.

“Yet again, we are not saying that the facts should not be reported. We are saying that hysteria and panic-inducing coverage should be avoided,” the letter makes clear.

“As mental health professionals, we can tell you that specific information empowers people and prepares them to face any challenge. But panic weakens them”.

The letter concludes by reminding the media of its responsibilities of sharing authentic information and allaying fears. The letter requests restraint on part of the media in the public interest.

This letter was signed by Dr. BN Gangadhar, Director of NIMHANS, along with Pratima Murthy (H.O.D. of Psychiatry, NIMHANS), Gautam Sinha (President, Indian Psychiatric Society), and Rajesh Sagar (Professor of Psychiatry, AIIMS Delhi)

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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