The media seem to have played a prominent role in shaping the contemporary social image of people with mental illness, by perpetuating the stigma attached to it. Worldwide, a vast amount of research findings converge to the stigmatizing representation of people with mental illness by the media, with reference to the dominant stereotype of violence. The present study aims to explore the representations of mental illness in the Greek Press using a quantitative and qualitative approach. Potential changes in the media portrayal of mental illness during the last decade are also being examined: findings are compared to those of a previous research that took place in 2001, following the same methodology. The sample consisted of press articles referring to mental illness, that were indexed daily from the Greek newspapers during the period July-November 2011. The items were categorized into thematic categories and further analyzed taking in account the use of stigmatizing vocabulary, the reproduction of common myths concerning mental illness, the overall valence of each article (stigmatizing, neutral or anti-stigmatizing) towards people with mental illness, as well as the contextual implications conveyed in the use of psychiatric terms as a metaphor. The largest thematic category that emerged from the sample was that referring to the repercussions of the economic crisis to mental health, followed by the category of articles where psychiatric terms are used as a metaphor. The comparisons made between 2001 and 2011 revealed an improved representation of mental illness in terms of stigma, especially regarding schizophrenia. The public expression of stigma has decreased, with fewer stigmatizing articles and notably more neutral in valence articles. The findings of this study suggest a decline of the media propensity for emotionally charged descriptions and a shift towards objective journalism regarding mental illness. This is most likely to be attributed to the anti-stigma campaigns, targeting media workers, that have been implemented during the last decade in Greece. Nevertheless, the public expression of stigma remains present by taking more subtle forms. Such examples are demonstrated by the semantic context of articles in which psychiatric terms are used as a metaphor, or by the recurrent reference of (unspecified) mental illness on the occasion of violent crime.

Key words: Mental illness, stigma, media, violence, economic crisis.

M. Economou, E. Louki, M. Charitsi, T. Alexiou, A. Patelakis, A. Christakaki, G.N. Papadimitriou (page 93) - Full article (Greek)