Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 16 Issue 4 (July/August 2006), Pages 247-336

Media presentation of the mental health bill and representations of mental health problems (pages 285-300)


This paper discusses the findings of a study that examined the way in which the Mental Health Bill of June 2002 was presented in the British national and local media over a 3‐year period. A Lexis Nexis search yielded 256 articles, which were then analysed qualitatively and quantitatively. Overall, and perhaps contrary to what might have been expected given previous studies' conclusions regarding the media's negative portrayal of mental ill health, most articles tended to present a negative view of the Bill as unnecessarily repressive, and consequently were more sympathetic towards mental heath service clients, although this was not the case for tabloid articles. However, this paper then considers the more implicit representations found within the articles. It focuses particularly on the continued linking of mental ill health and violence, and also on the way in which the mental health service user might be portrayed as passive and rather pitiful as an alternative to violent and dangerous. It is suggested that the continued use of such images may stem from the fact that mental health problems have long been constructed as ‘Other’, and are therefore deeply engrained in our society. The implications of this for anti‐stigma campaigns are briefly discussed. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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