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Newspaper reporting of homicide-suicide and mental illness

  • Sandra Flynn (a1), Linda Gask (a1) and Jenny Shaw (a1)
Abstract
Aims and method

To explore the portrayal of homicide-suicide in newspaper articles, particularly how mental illness was reported. We carried out a qualitative study in England and Wales (2006–2008). Data from newspaper articles obtained via the LexisNexis database were used to examine a consecutive series of 60 cases.

Results

A fascination with extreme violence, vulnerable victims and having someone to blame made homicide-suicides newsworthy. Some offenders were portrayed in a stereotypical manner and pejorative language was used to describe mental illness. The findings showed evidence of inaccurate and speculative reference to mental disorder in newspaper reports.

Clinical implications

The media should avoid speculation on people's mental state. Accurate reporting is essential to reduce stigma of mental illness, which may in turn encourage people to seek help if they experience similar emotional distress.

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Copyright
This is an open-access article published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Corresponding author
Correspondence to Dr Sandra Flynn (sandra.m.flynn@manchester.ac.uk)
Footnotes
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Declaration of interest

None.

Footnotes
References
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BJPsych Bulletin
  • ISSN: 2056-4694
  • EISSN: 2056-4708
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Newspaper reporting of homicide-suicide and mental illness

  • Sandra Flynn (a1), Linda Gask (a1) and Jenny Shaw (a1)
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