Mental disorders stigma in the media: review of studies on production, content, and influences

J Health Commun. 2008 Jul-Aug;13(5):434-49. doi: 10.1080/10810730802198813.


This article analyzes two decades of research regarding the mass media's role in shaping, perpetuating, and reducing the stigma of mental illness. It concentrates on three broad areas common in media inquiry: production, representation, and audiences. The analysis reveals that descriptions of mental illness and the mentally ill are distorted due to inaccuracies, exaggerations, or misinformation. The ill are presented not only as peculiar and different, but also as dangerous. Thus, the media perpetuate misconceptions and stigma. Especially prominent is the absence of agreed-upon definitions of "mental illness," as well as the lack of research on the inter-relationships in audience studies between portrayals in the media and social perceptions. The analysis concludes with suggestions for further research on mass media's inter-relationships with mental illness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mass Media*
  • Mental Disorders / etiology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Persuasive Communication*
  • Prejudice*
  • Public Opinion
  • Social Perception