The association in the media of mental illness with violence is well established. This study looks at whether there are differences in the portrayal of schizophrenia in the local newspapers of Nottingham, an area with a high crime rate and Dorset, an area with a low crime rate.
We analysed 98 newspaper articles, 55 from Nottingham and 43 from Dorset, and found no statistically significant difference in the portrayal of schizophrenia. Overall, 36.1% of articles were negative in tone, 56.7% were neutral and 7.2% were positive. In 6 of the 98 articles (6.1%) a person with schizophrenia or their carer was interviewed. These articles were either positive or neutral in tone. Schizophrenia has entered the language as a metaphor.
Local levels of crime do not appear to influence the portrayal of schizophrenia in local newspapers. Associations with dangerousness continue to predominate and the lay public continues to receive a distorted image of people living with schizophrenia. More interviews with patients and carers might help to address this imbalance. It is important to explore what the word schizophrenia means to patients and carers.
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