Opinion: How The News Media Can Affect Your Mental Health

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In recent weeks, a deluge of negative local news has come out of the press. No longer is the bad news limited to a far-off war zone, it seems like more and more horrific things are happening closer and closer to home.

Take one look at the Facebook page of the Manchester Evening News and you’ll see what I mean. Here’s just a sampling of a few recent headlines; ‘Teenagers arrested after knifepoint robbery gang in Audi strike at least six times’, ‘Rival gang members jailed after man shot during mass street fight’, ‘Teenager shot in the buttocks and woman also ‘grazed’ as men open fire on group in car park’, and ‘Man stabbed multiple times in Chinatown street fight.’

And these are just headlines I saw from five minutes of browsing. Reports of violence seem never-ending, and can seriously impact on mental health. I noticed they were impacting on mine in recent weeks.

Whenever I’d be out in Manchester, I’d feel ultra-conscious of my surroundings. Analysing anybody who looked suspicious, steering clear of what looked like gangs, avoiding dark side streets where possible. I felt hyper-aware of all the potential dangers. It’s no way to live.

Of course you should be safe when you’re out in a city centre, particularly if you’re out after dark. But getting lost in a sea of negative news can warp your perception of the world. I certainly began to feel as if violence and crime were to be expected; as if there would be no end in sight. The world was only going to get worse, crime would only get worse and there was no hope.

But taking a step back and looking at the big picture made a huge difference. Understanding the roots of crime is important – how does government policy factor into the issue? What would push somebody to join a gang? What are the most effective ways to combat crime?

When thought about logically, crime doesn’t seem as alien a concept. It’s crucial to consider how news media works: negative news sells better than positive news.

News stories about crime provoke rage in readers, who furiously share the stories onto their Facebook pages, angrily writing: “This country is going to the dogs!”

I know, because I’ve been that person at many points in recent months.

Manchester, the wider country and indeed the world at large, has more good people in it than it does bad. They may not make the front pages, but they still exist. The world isn’t all doom and gloom as we so often lead ourselves to believe.

Don’t fall into the rabbit-hole of negative news stories. The issues of crime, politics and other serious matters are important – but they aren’t worth wrecking your mental health for.

About the author / 

Ben Thompson

Modern History student. Mostly writes about politics and social issues.

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