The decontextualization of mental illness: the portrayal of work in psychiatric drug advertisements

Soc Sci Med. 1991;32(8):867-74. doi: 10.1016/0277-9536(91)90242-5.


This paper explores the decontextualization of mental illness in psychiatric drug advertisements. Taking the portrayal of work in several drug advertisements which appeared in the American Journal of Psychiatry* as the object of our analysis, we show how these ads tend to individualize mental illness and its treatment by failing to consider the social realities that contribute to or, in some way, affect mental illness. We conclude with a discussion of how such ads distort debate over treatment options and legitimize existing social relations and attitudes.

MeSH terms

  • Advertising*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / drug therapy
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Nonprescription Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Socioeconomic Factors


  • Nonprescription Drugs
  • Psychotropic Drugs