Trends in news media coverage of mental illness in the United States: 1995-2014

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The United States is engaged in ongoing dialogue around mental illness. To assess trends in this national discourse, we studied the volume and content of a random sample of 400 news stories about mental illness from the period 1995-2014. Compared to news stories in the first decade of the study period, those in the second decade were more likely to mention mass shootings by people with mental illnesses. The most frequently mentioned topic across the study period was violence (55 percent overall) divided into categories of interpersonal violence or self-directed (suicide) violence, followed by stories about any type of treatment for mental illness (47 percent). Fewer news stories, only 14 percent, described successful treatment for or recovery from mental illness. The news media's continued emphasis on interpersonal violence is highly disproportionate to actual rates of violence among those with mental illnesses. Research suggests that this focus may exacerbate social stigma and decrease support for public policies that benefit people with mental illnesses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1121-1129
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Affairs
Volume35
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy

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