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How mental illness is portrayed in children's television: A prospective study

  • Claire Wilson (a1), Raymond Nairn (a1), John Coverdale (a1) and Aroha Panapa (a1)
Abstract
Background

There are no published studies concerning the depiction of mental illness in children's television programmes.

Aims

To determine whether mental illness was depicted in children's television.

Method

Sample of one complete week of children's television (57 hours, 50 minutes; 128 series episodes: 69 cartoon animations, 12 non-cartoon animations, 47 real life) provided for children under the age of 10 years. Disclosure analysis of portrayals of mental illness through repeated viewings identified patterns in the use of linguistic, semiotic and rhetorical resources.

Results

Of the 128 episodes, 59 (46%) contained one or more references to mental illness, predominantly in cartoons (n=47, 80%) compared with other episode types (χ 2=17.1, d.f.=2, P<0.05). Commonly occurring terms such as ‘crazy’ (n=28), ‘mad’ (n=19) and ‘losing your mind’ (n=13) were employed to denote loss of control. The six consistently mentally ill characters were almost entirely devoid of admirable attributes.

Conclusion

Young viewers are being socialised into stigmatising conceptions of mental illness.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Raymond Nairn, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Science, Faculty of Medicine and Health Science, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92-019, Auckland, New Zealand
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Declaration of interest

Funding was provided by a Faculty of Medicine and Health Science grant.

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References
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The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: 0007-1250
  • EISSN: 1472-1465
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
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How mental illness is portrayed in children's television: A prospective study

  • Claire Wilson (a1), Raymond Nairn (a1), John Coverdale (a1) and Aroha Panapa (a1)
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