Discussing mental illness in Chinese social media: the impact of influential sources on stigmatization and support among their followers

Health Commun. 2016;31(3):355-63. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2014.957376. Epub 2015 Sep 11.


A content analysis was conducted to examine depression-related discourses by public opinion leaders and mainstream media in the Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo, as well as the impact of these discourses on their followers. The study revealed that stereotypical presentations of people with depression by influential sources often promoted stigmatization of or reduced support for depressed individuals among their followers. Environmental and genetic attributions for the disease in the original posts reduced stigmatization in the response posts. Information about recovery and treatment proved to be a double-edged sword, reducing stigmatization and support among followers at the same time. The use of a crime context to discuss depression in the original posts often promoted stigmatization, while discussing it in a health context increased support in the response posts.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health
  • China
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Depression / therapy
  • Humans
  • Mass Media
  • Mental Disorders
  • Public Opinion
  • Social Media*
  • Social Perception*
  • Social Stigma*
  • Social Support