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Appears in Collections:Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Newspaper representations of mental illness and the impact of the reporting of 'events' on social policy: The 'framing' of Isabel Schwarz and Jonathan Zito
Author(s): Paterson, Brodie
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Keywords: Foucault
mental disease
psychological aspect
public opinion
social psychology
social work
United Kingdom
History, 20th Century
Mental Disorders
Public Policy
Issue Date: Jun-2006
Citation: Paterson B (2006) Newspaper representations of mental illness and the impact of the reporting of 'events' on social policy: The 'framing' of Isabel Schwarz and Jonathan Zito, Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 13 (3), pp. 294-300.
Abstract: Concerns have been raised internationally about the role of the media in influencing public opinion and by implication, social policy on mental health issues. In particular, anxieties have been expressed that an 'excessive' focus by the news media on violence in association with mental illness may reinforce pre-existing stereotypes and by escalating public concerns lead to the adoption of policies which place a high priority on the safety of the public. Such assertions are often contained in the numerous studies that record a seemingly disproportionate number of stories featuring violence in association with mental health. What is, however, almost invariably lacking is a developed theory of agency that explains how or why such depictions of mental illness might exert an influence on social policy. This paper critically examines the potential significance of the way in which responsibility for events is constructed for social policy by means of a discourse analysis, inspired by the genealogical work of Michel Foucault. It uses the device of 'frames' originally developed by Goffman to explore the nature of newspaper coverage of two deaths to which causal responsibility for changes in the nature of English social policy in mental health has been attributed. Results presented suggest that attempts to assert a causal influence between media coverage and changes in the nature of social policy must engage with the question of agency.
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