Studies indicate that mass media is one of the public’s primary sources of information about disorders such as bipolar, schizophrenia and depression maybe the cause of this misperception.
The catch? Research also suggests most media portrayals of mental illness are stereotypical, negative or flat-out wrong – meaning many people gain an unfavorable or inaccurate view of those with psychological disorders simply by skimming a few sentences or picking up a remote control.
Studies show that not only are individuals with mental illness LESS likely to commit violent crimes, they’re actually more likely to be victimized. Still, many news outlets conflate mental illness with violence. When it comes to mental illness, the media tends to skew reality.
News media and stigma
From building fire to car crash to murder, the news media have been guilty of sensationalizing every type of news story to catch the attention of the reader or viewer. As the old saying in the news business goes, “If it bleeds, it leads.”
The sensationalized reporting of crimes involving people with a mental illness can hurt an entire group of people who have done nothing to deserve it.
The Media Is Perpetuating A Dangerous Myth About Mental Illness
It isn’t just your imagination: The news media disproportionately links mental illness and violent behavior, a new study found.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University examined 400 random samples of news stories about mental illness over two decades. They found that more than a third of all news stories about mental health conditions were linked with violence toward other people.
This figure does not reflect the actual rates of interpersonal violence where mental illness is involved, according to the study’s authors. Data suggests only 3 to 5 percent of violent acts can be attributed to serious mental illness. But suggesting that mental health issues are a major factor in violence does create stigma for those who struggle with these illnesses.
“We have good research evidence that news media portrayals like this do create a stigma toward individuals with mental illness,” lead study author Emma McGinty, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told The Huffington Post. “But in reality, most violence is not caused by people with mental illness.”