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Portrayal of Mental Illness on Television: A Review of the Literature

Oostdyk, Alicia Marie (2008) Portrayal of Mental Illness on Television: A Review of the Literature. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The focus of this thesis is to present peer-reviewed studies relating to mental illness and television. Up to this point there has not been a review paper exclusively examining mental illness and television exclusively. For this review, only articles with a defined research design were included. Seven content analysis articles were identified measuring images of mental illness on television. Content analysis articles covered children's television, primetime entertainment programs, and soap operas. Five studies were identified surveying attitudes and beliefs of viewers after seeing images of mental illness on television. Research revealed that mental illness is portrayed negatively on television. Commonly, characters with mental illness are shown as violent, villainous, and unintelligent. Attitudes are affected by the number of hours of television watched, the viewer's education level, having direct experience with a person diagnosed with a mental illness, as well as seeing negative portrayals of mental illness on television.In the future, collaborative relationships to educate professionals working in media need to be established. Anti-stigma interventions should target specific populations that do not have regular contact with mentally ill patients. Future research needs to include the opinions and experiences of mental health service consumers. Current content analysis research focuses heavily on programs aired on American network television (ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox); in the future original programs on cable networks should be included in the samples. Similarly, unscripted reality television is gaining popularity and should be considered for analysis in the future. When attitudes and beliefs are measured, the samples of participants surveyed need to be made up of a wide range of ages, education levels, and experiences, instead of the homogenized groups currently being surveyed. Public health professionals have a responsibility to be advocates to the mental health community. It is of public health significance to ensure the most accurate information is disseminated to the general public in order to reduce incorrect assumptions and negative stigmas surrounding mental illness.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Oostdyk, Alicia, clarkam@upmc.eduAMC74
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairYoo, Seunghyunsyoo@pitt.eduSYOO
Committee MemberTerry, Martha Annmaterry@pitt.eduMATERRY
Committee MemberNimgaonkar, Vishwajitnimga@pitt.eduNIMGA
Date: 27 June 2008
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 21 April 2008
Approval Date: 27 June 2008
Submission Date: 11 April 2008
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Public Health > Behavioral and Community Health Sciences
Degree: MPH - Master of Public Health
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: mental health; health communication; mass media; mental illness; television
Other ID:, etd-04112008-110127
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:35
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:39


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