The picture of mental health/illness in the printed media in three Central European countries

J Health Commun. 2012;17(1):22-40. doi: 10.1080/10810730.2011.571341. Epub 2011 Jun 27.


Even in the era of the Internet, printed media are still among the most frequently identified sources of mental health information. Many studies have shown that this information is frequently negative and contributes to stigmatization of people with mental illness. This international comparative study describes the content of media messages about mental health/illness in terms of stigma in three Central European countries. The study sample comprised all articles pertaining to the topic of mental health/illness (N = 450) identified during five week-long periods in 2007 chosen from the six most widely read newspapers and magazines in each country. The authors used content analysis methods to achieve quantitative and qualitative objectives. More than half of all articles contained negative statements reflecting stigma toward persons with mental illness. Substance abuse disorders are the most frequent mental conditions covered in all three countries (22%), and psychotic disorders are the most stigmatized. Countries significantly differ in length of articles, in the association of aggressive behavior with persons with mental illness, and in the use of a sensationalized style of writing. Coverage of mental health/illness issues differs to some extent across countries but is generally of poor quality. On the basis of the authors' findings, practical recommendations for journalists can be tailored specifically for each country.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Health Communication / standards*
  • Humans
  • Mass Media / statistics & numerical data*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Public Opinion
  • Slovakia
  • Stereotyping*
  • Violence / psychology