More us than them: positive depictions of mental illness on Australian television news

Connie Henson, Simon Chapman, Lachlan McLeod, Natalie Johnson, Kevin McGeechan, Ian Hickie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objective: The aim of the present study was to review television news coverage of mental illness including self-depictions from people with mental illness, and views expressed by mental health experts and politicians in all 538 news and current affairs items related to mental illness broadcast on free-to-air Sydney television, May 2005–October 2007.

Methods: Content and frame analysis was done of news actors (those with mental illnesses, experts and politicians) of whether depictions were positive ‘one of us’, or negative ‘one of them’.

Results: Only 6% of all items with a main focus on a specific health condition, focused on mental health. Individuals with mental illness were present in 264 (49%) of 538 items, with most (174, 66%) of these self-depictions categorized as either neutral or positive. Experts and politicians overwhelmingly represented and described people with mental illnesses in neutral or positive ways (95% and 84%, respectively). Overall news angle included 299 items (55%), which were categorized as positive ‘recovery focused’ items. Another 156 items (29%) were neutral, and 62 items (12%) were classified as negative. Twenty-one (4%) had unclear or mixed themes.

Conclusions: The present findings differ from previous descriptions of media depiction of mental illness, which have been largely negative. The present study provides support for the importance of involving those with histories of mental illness in news coverage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)554-560
Number of pages7
JournalAustralian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
Volume43
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Australia
  • depression
  • mental illness
  • news media
  • stigma
  • television

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