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Stigma: a linguistic analysis of the UK red-top tabloids press’s representation of schizophreniaAims. Media representations of mental health problems may influence readers’ understanding of, and attitude towards, people who have received psychiatric diagnoses. Negative beliefs and attitudes may then lead to discriminatory behaviour, which is understood as stigma. This study explored the language used in popular national newspapers when writing about schizophrenia and considered how this may have contributed to the processes of stigmatisation towards people with this diagnosis. Methods. Using corpus linguistic methods, a sample of newspaper articles over a 24 month period that mentioned the word ‘schizophrenia’ was compared with a similar sample of articles about diabetes. This enabled a theory-driven exploration of linguistic characteristics to explore stigmatising messages, whilst supported by statistical tests (Log-Likelihood) to compare the data sets and identify words with a high relative frequency. Results. Analysis of the ‘schizophrenia’ data set identified that overtly stigmatising language (e.g. “schizo”) was relatively infrequent, but that there was frequent use of linguistic signatures of violence. Articles frequently used graphic language referring to: acts of violence, descriptions of violent acts, implements used in violence, identity labels and exemplars of well-known individuals who had committed violent acts. The word ‘schizophrenic’ was used with a high frequency (n=108) and most commonly to name individuals who had committed acts of violence. Discussion. The study suggests that whilst the press have largely avoided the use of words that press guidance has steered them away from (e.g. “schizo” and “psycho”) that they still use a range of graphic language to present people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia as frighteningly ‘other’ and as prone to violence. This repetition of negative stereotypical messages may well contribute to the processes of stigmatisation many people who experience psychosis have to contend.
Stigma: Personality disorder and homicide in the U.K. red-top tabloid press, 2001-2012There is evidence of stigma towards people with personality disorder from within healthcare systems, but relatively little known about other aspects of stigmatisation. This study explored the image within the red-top tabloids of people with personality disorder who have committed homicide and how this may have contributed to the processes of stigmatisation. The analysis was underpinned by a symbolic interactionist perspective on individuals and society and was informed by the modified labelling model. The role the press plays in the processes of stigmatisation is elaborated through exploration of the theoretical models and empirical evidence. The data set for the thesis was articles published by the red-top tabloids between the years 2001 and 2012 (inclusively) that made reference to personality disorder. The data set was analysed using three methods: content analysis, corpus linguistics and frame analysis. The three methods were used in a mixed methods approach with a sequential design so that the results from one stage of the analysis fed into the next stage. The content analysis of the data set identified that of the 552 articles published about people with personality disorder, 42% met the criteria for being homicide themed. Analysis identified that there was a significant reduction in the proportion of homicide themed newspaper articles in the period 2007-2012 compared to 2001-2006 ((1, n=552) = 7.38, p < .05), however, the effect size was small (φ = .12). Corpus linguistics analysis was used on articles that were homicide themed and identified 22 words that were stigmatising in their use, and were used proportionally more frequently than a comparator data set. These words were categorised as either epithets (e.g. psycho, monster), qualities (e.g. evil) or contributing to the process of labelling (e.g. branded). Comparison between 2001-2006 and 2007-2012 identified a proportional increase in the use of stigmatising descriptors, but to a level that was not considered to be significant ((1, n=114110) = 1.53, p > .05). Frame analysis of the homicide data set identified a dominant news frame in the articles, referred to as lock them up and throw away the key. This news frame was structured on a model that the problem was a failure to protect us, the public, from the risk presented by them, dangerous people with personality disorder who commit homicide. The results of the study are discussed in relation to the model elaborated in the study of the role the red-top tabloids may play in the processes of stigmatisation. Implications for practice include using personality disorder in press guidance, and training for clinicians about attitudes towards people with personality disorder to include reviewing the impact of the press.