Newspaper depictions of mental and physical health

BJPsych Bull. 2017 Dec;41(6):308-313. doi: 10.1192/pb.bp.116.054775.

Abstract

Aims and method Media portrayals of mental illness have long been recognised as being misleading and stigmatising. Following the campaigns of several advocacy groups to address this issue, we aimed to evaluate the impact on mental health reporting over time. We repeated a survey we did 15 years ago using the same methods. Nine UK daily newspapers were surveyed over a 4-week period and coded with a schema to analyse the reporting of mental health compared with physical health. Results In total, 963 articles - 200 on mental health and 763 on physical health - were identified. Over half of the articles on mental health were negative in tone: 18.5% indicated an association with violence compared with 0.3% of articles on physical health. However, there were more quotes from patients with mental disorders than physical disorders (22.5% v. 19.7%) and an equal mention of treatment and rehabilitation. Clinical implications Mental health in print media remains tainted by themes of violence, however some improvement in reporting in recent years is evident, in particular by providing a voice for people with mental illness.