Good News? A Longitudinal Analysis of Newspaper Portrayals of Mental Illness in Canada 2005 to 2015.

TitleGood News? A Longitudinal Analysis of Newspaper Portrayals of Mental Illness in Canada 2005 to 2015.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsWhitley R, Wang JW
JournalCan J Psychiatry
Date Published2017 Apr

OBJECTIVES: The overarching aim of this article is to assess media portrayals of mental illness in Canada. We hypothesise that portrayals have improved over time, related to the various antistigma activities of organisations such as the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC). Specific objectives are to assess 1) overall tone and content of newspaper articles, 2) change over time, and 3) variables associated with positive or negative content.METHODS: We collected newspaper articles from print and online editions of over 20 best-selling Canadian newspapers from 2005 to 2015 ( N = 24,570) that mentioned key search terms such as mental illness or schizophrenia. These were read by research assistants, who assessed tone and content for each article using preassigned codes and categories. Data were subjected to chi-squared and trend analysis.RESULTS: Over the study period, 21% of the articles had a positive tone and 28% had stigmatising content. Trend analysis suggested significantly improved coverage over 11 years ( P < 0.001). For example, articles with a positive tone had almost doubled from 2005 (18.9%) to 2015 (34.8%), and articles with stigmatising content had reduced by a third (22.3% vs 32.7%). Analysis also suggested that articles on the front page, as well as articles in broadsheet newspapers, had significantly more positive coverage.CONCLUSIONS: The study indicates that news media coverage related to mental illness has improved over the past decade. This may be related to the concerted efforts of the MHCC, which has executed a targeted strategy aimed at reducing stigma and improving media coverage since 2007.

Alternate JournalCan J Psychiatry
PubMed ID27777273