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Title: Events and social policy: an exploration of the influence of two homicides on developments in mental illness social policy in England 1985-2000
Author(s): Paterson, Brodie
Supervisor(s): Rowlings, Cherry
McIntosh, Ian
Keywords: mental health policy events violence Zito framing discourse Schwarz Zito homicide
Issue Date: Mar-2006
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: Background. A number of commentators (Holloway 1996 Muijen 1996a; 1996b) have suggested that two events in the form of homicides carried out by mental health service users came to exert a disproportionate influence on English mental health policy over the period 1985-2000. In particular it has been suggested that the events formed the focus for a ‘moral panic’ caused by ‘irresponsible’ and ‘sensationalist’ reporting in UK newspapers (Neal 1998; Prins and Swan 1998). Aims. In the light of such claims this study critically explores the role played by the deaths of Jonathan Zito and Isabel Schwarz play in establishing violent assaults perpetrated by people experiencing mental illness as a ‘social problem’. It examines whether a shift in the discourse on mental illness took place in UK newspapers and explores how the deaths of Isabel Schwarz were and Jonathan Zito were framed in terms of causal responsibility. Finally it evaluates what influence, if any, the deaths in question had on the social policy agenda. Design. Case study / mixed design integrating quantitative and qualitative methods. Method. Content analysis consisting of a longitudinal analysis of the nature of the representation of mental illness changed over the period in two UK newspaper. Framing a sub-type of discourse analysis examined changes in the discourse of mental illness and the effects of the emergence of the community care tragedy as a ‘new’ narrative. It was also used to examine the potential influence on social policy on mental illness of changes in societal level frames particularly the emergence of the risk society. Results. The content analysis found that mental illness appeared increasingly in the context of a threat to public safety in newspapers over the period but that the overall representation was more balanced. The framing analysis identified and evidenced a competitive process in framing the issue of homicides committed by service users with mental health problems and demonstrated the potential influence of macro level social frames on the policy making proces
Type: Thesis or Dissertation
Affiliation: School of Applied Social Science

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