Print media’s coverage of mental health

Despite modern day technology and social media at its prime, printed media is still going strong as a frequent source for mental health information. However, a number of studies have shown that the coverage is negative and contributes towards the stigma attached to mental health. Many people use print media to create their own understanding of mental health which can foster negative perceptions. Those with mental health disorders can be wrongly represented and the majority of articles within print media overlook the well-being of sufferers. The problems associated with print media is that it is unable to convey someones personality or the interaction between one another.

National Mental Health Development unit’s fact-file highlights the fact that 77% of adults believe that the media does not do a good job in educating people about mental illness. Nearly four out of 10 readers of national newspapers say they are the source of their beliefs about a link between mental illness and violence. One in six readers who have been affected by mental health issues have openly stated that newspaper portrayals have discouraged them or friends/family from seeking help.

Surveys of British Print Media found:

Mental health sufferers were quoted in 6% of all pieces

The criminal justice system was the most common known source of stories about mental health with 15% of stories implying a risk of violence posed by those with a mental health disorder.

There was little coverage of mental health issues in either young people’s media or black and Asian media.

People who had personal contact with people with mental health problems were more understanding of them, more critical of negative media reporting and more sceptical about links made by the media between mental health and violence.

Time to Change is a charity which aims to end the stigma attached to mental health in England. The population in which they aim to reach is directly influenced by how far media coverage maintains stigma and discrimination.

The British Journal of Psychiatry (Apr 2013) compared English newspaper coverage of mental health-related topics each year of Time to Change’s social marketing campaign between 2009 and 2011 with baseline coverage in 2008.

Their study method consisted of content analysis on articles in 27 local and national newspapers on two randomly chosen days each month.

The results displayed a significant increase in the proportion of anti-stigmatising articles between 2008 and 2011. No affiliated proportional decrease in stigmatising articles were found and these findings provided promising results for improving coverage of mental health in the media.

In more recent times TTC have reported that attitudes towards mental health problems have improved. (The National Attitudes to Mental Illness survey was analysed by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London since 2009)

2009 – 2.8%

2010 – 0.8%

2011 – 2.4%

2012 – 3.6%

2013 – 6.4%

2014 – 8.3%

 

Still to come…
tacklingstigma analyses and compares print media’s coverage of mental health to digital media.
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