I’ve already written today about BBC Scotland’s report on the death of a baby in the most awful circumstances. I cannot describe the actual nature of that death. I’ve condemned the report in terms of its inappropriateness for our public service broadcaster.
However, there’s more to say about this. To tell the story of this single, very rare case, as they did, has consequences. It will have been seen by midwives, by expectant mothers and their relatives. Might this cause even one expectant mother to decide to dangerously give birth at home? The only demonstrable media effect is that of depression and anxiety. Researchers have already shown the strong correlation between high negative news consumption and levels of depression and anxiety.
Not proven scientifically is the notion that personalised, extended reports of trauma such as stillbirth, with images of the baby scan and interviews with a teddy-clutching grief-stricken mother will demoralise midwives and create fear in the minds of expectant mothers and their relatives. I don’t think we need to do this research, do you, just in case? For purely political gain, BBC Scotland have exploited a broken woman and caused many of their viewers to illogically fear childbirth procedures in hospitals.
Scandalously, Reporting Scotland did not tell us in the report or at any other time:
‘In the Nordic countries – Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland – the rate of stillbirths and deaths of babies within 28 days is 4.3 per 1 000 live births. This is the lowest in the world. In the USA, it’s about 10. The Scottish figure has now fallen to just 4.72 with the rate for the UK at 5.61.’
This is from a BBC website!
That’s the real news about childbirth in Scotland. It’s safer than its ever been and safer here than elsewhere in the UK. Shouldn’t the BBC inform us rather than just scare us? Their royal charter makes no mention of scaring.
I’ve admitted already that I cannot prove that the broadcast made people more anxious and fearful of childbirth in Scottish hospitals but there is some evidence that such reporting, especially in the early hours of the day is strongly associated with fearful responses. I wrote this last year:
‘The ‘baleful habitual practices of the miserable mind’ are strongest in the early morning’
Dr R Fletcher, ‘Surgeon to the Lunatic Asylum near Gloucester’ 1833 (p.206) wrote this in 1883. I know it’s not a recent and reliable source, as we used to say in Higher Education, but I think it shows that we’ve known about this effect for some time. It was no accident that medieval monks and more recently, private school boarders, got started with their religious indoctrination before dawn so as to catch them anxious, fearful and absorbent of the required sense of superiority and deep racial prejudices necessary for the conquest of lesser peoples.
Making these early hours particularly effective for indoctrination, they often follow on from nightmares:
‘Nightmares tend to occur during the early morning, as opposed to late evening with night terrors, and patients usually have good recall of the events of the dream.’ (Science-based Medicine, 2014)
Does the above matter? Well perhaps it does:
‘I would like to re-emphasise the importance of “bad news” in the genesis of psychopathology, as this does not seem to be generally recognised. Bad news, of deaths and other disasters, is not available to our primate cousins who are not equipped to exchange gossip but has been available to our ancestors over the last few million years since language evolved. Since these ancestors lived in groups of about 150 individuals, the amount of bad news they could generate was limited, even if we add in bad news from neighbouring groups. Now, we have available the bad news of many billions of people.’