I wasn really sure where to put this so I just lodged it into Hanging Out I am writing a story for my HSC that centres around the depiction of mental illness in media, a depiction I find usually to be one of bastardisation, criminalisation or romanticisation. I was wondering if Reach Out or any of the people on the forum have know of any articles or studies done towards this area? And while I'm at it, what are your views on mental illness in media?
Not too sure about suggesting particular articles or studies for your HSC - but you can email firstname.lastname@example.org for further advice in approaching stuff like research and assignments.
In terms of how mental health is presented in media, I personally have issues with it. There are so many kinds of media out there and how certain social issues are depicted can vary. Definitely do agree that when it comes to mental health, those themes of bastardisation, criminalisation, and romanticism are common.
To me, 'survivor' stories and 'chequebook journalism' limit the diverse range of stories out there from people who experience mental illness. Usually, these stories or features represent only one particular kind of individual or view - sensationalising or simplifying a person's life, state of health, treatment, as well as other factors. This is sometimes done to present mental health in an 'easy-to-digest' way, and to profit from supposedly showing an 'inspirational' recovery or battle.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of representation in mental health and individual stories - whether these are people that are experiencing mental illness, or struggling to access adequate care, professionals that work in the sector, and marginalised communities. In many cases, the stories that are usually taken into account in mainstream media are white and middle-class. This can be an issue as we do live in a multicultural society, and this further instigates stigma within particular cultural and ethnic identities.
Hey @drhalloween , that's such an interesting concept for your HSC! During my bachelor / masters of criminology I focused a lot on the relationship between the media and specific types of crime ad how this impacted the general populus, so while I unfortunately can't steer you in the direction of specfic studies relating to mental illness, I can tell you about the things that really stood out to me in my research.
I would definitely add the term 'sensationalism' to your list of things to loook into, this is a huge thing with the media. Basically it's where the media attempts to make something appear way more exciting / scary / shocking etc then it really is in reality. There are heaps of ways to do this but some of the more common ones are using special "buzz" words that are designed to get an emotive reaction out of the audience and engage them. These words might be things like "epidemic", "sky-rocketing", "psycho", "at an all time high" or "wildly out of control". Describing things in graphic detail (for example, how someone was killed or injured) and phrasing things in specific ways ((ie. instead of using the word 'steak knife', the journalist might call it a 8-inch serated-edged weapon which sounds a lot more agressive / movie like) can also contribute to this sensationalism.
Another huge thing you have to be careful with the media is how statistics and research is actually used. It is very easy for journalists to leave out key aspects of research to make something seem more prevelant / more damaging / more exciting. For example, a journalist might post a headline and be like "Chocolate-eating epidemic fattening our children!". They might then go on to say that all of the 100 children they interviewed had eaten x amount of chocolate on that day. However, they might neglect to mention that they interviewed children taking part in a chocolate-eating competition and thus really, the statistic is absolutely meaningless.
You could also try checking out the following websites:
- "Mindframe" which is the Australian Government’s Initiative aiming to encourage responsible, accurate and sensitive representation of mental illness and suicide in the Australian mass media. I think it should have some guidelines and suggestions about how jouranlists are suppose to report.
- Sane Australia which is pretty interested in the relationship between media + mental illness. They run a program called 'Stigma Watch' which is where people can report media that they believe stigmatises mental health issues. You can view some of the items that they believe to be stigmatising, which might help you see everything in action.