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What's the Story?

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One morning last week, I picked up one of the free newspapers littering the train carriage, and scrawled across the front of it was the following headline: "Mentally-ill killer stabbed strangers in street attacks."

Yes, shocking, and certainly attention-grabbing, to say the least.

The story attempted to shed light on the terrible incident that saw Sally Hodkin stabbed and killed during a random attack that took place in Bexleyheath, South London, in October 2011.

Currently on trial at the Old Bailey, Nicola Edgington is accused of both the murder of Sally, and the attempted murder of another woman, Kelly Clark.

Clearly a horrific event, and with hope, the powers at be will ensure that justice is carried out fairly - so I'm going to leave that up to them.

But, what I want to raise here is the way it seems this sort of extreme and sad story is, all too often, the ONLY one being told about the 'mentally-ill'.

Sure, I understand that the headline: 'Sally fights depression, holds down a full-time job and volunteers for the local community', is hardly shocking.

But, by all accounts, perhaps this is exactly the sort of thing that we, the public, need to hear more about in relation to mental health?

The reason that I, and many other people, suggest this is because of the misconceptions and stigma that surround mental health due to such stories.

Attitudes are changing, and thankfully, more is known and understood about the complexities of mental health as a subject matter. This is because it is now more widely accepted that the person should come before the diagnosis - as to steer away from labelling people.

So it's not as bad as it was, but still, stories like this do not help to dispel the myths and start a healthy dialogue about mental health.

They seem to have a way of tapping into people's default prejudices, which I heard when a couple of my fellow commuters decided to publicly commentate on the front page with a rather predictable, "...psycho - see these people with bloomin' mental health problems, I tell ya... "

The problem comes when other people, who do not kill others, but have mental health problems, also get called such names, that the whole issue becomes a really nasty mess.

Granted, this sort of reaction is not necessarily the fault of the publication, as it is up to individual in how they respond to something, and, to be fair, the article wasn't in any way loaded with that sort of language.

But when I looked for other publications that had also covered the story I found a huge range: everything from scary, to the more factual.

It's such a complicated topic, but it is something that must continue to be discussed.