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The Effects of News Stories on the Stigma of Mental Illness

Corrigan, Patrick W. PsyD; Powell, Karina J. MS; Michaels, Patrick J. MS

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: March 2013 - Volume 201 - Issue 3 - p 179–182
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e3182848c24
Original Articles

The media are often identified as partially responsible for increasing the stigma of mental illness through their negatively focused representations. For many years, training programs have educated journalists on how to report on mental illness to reduce stigma. This purpose of this study was to evaluate the benefits of reading a positive, neutral or a negative journalism article that discusses mental illness. Consenting adult participants were randomly assigned to read one of three published articles about recovery from mental illness, a dysfunctional public mental health system, or dental hygiene. The participants completed measures immediately before and after the intervention; the measures administered evaluated stigmatizing and affirming attitudes toward people with mental illness. Public stigma was assessed using the nine-item Attribution Questionnaire and the Stigma Through Knowledge Test (STKT). The STKT is a measure of mental illness stigma less susceptible to the impact of social desirability. Affirming attitudes represent public perceptions about recovery, empowerment, and self-determination, indicated as important to accepting and including people with psychiatric disabilities into society. Significant differences were observed between the articles on recovery and dysfunctional public mental health system, as well as the control condition, on the measures of stigma and affirming attitudes. The recovery article reduced stigma and increased affirming attitudes, whereas the dysfunctional public mental health system article increased stigma and decreased affirming attitudes. Not all journalistic stories have positive effects on attitudes about mental illness.

College of Psychology, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago.

Send reprint requests to Patrick W. Corrigan, PsyD, College of Psychology, Illinois Institute of Technology, 3424 S State St, Chicago, IL 60616. E-mail:

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.