Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

People See What Papers Show! Psychiatry's Stint with Print Media: A Pilot Study from Mumbai, India

Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

People See What Papers Show! Psychiatry's Stint with Print Media: A Pilot Study from Mumbai, India

Article excerpt

Byline: Shivanshu. Shrivastava, Gurvinder. Kalra, Shaunak. Ajinkya

Mass media including television, internet, and newspapers influences public views about various issues by means of how it covers an issue. Newspapers have a wider reach and may affect the impact that a news story has on the reader by factors such as placement of the story within the different pages. We did a pilot study to see how two English newspapers from Mumbai, India were covering psychiatry related news stories. The study was done over a period of 3 months. We found a total of 870 psychiatry related news stories in the two newspapers over 3 months with the majority of them being covered in the main body of the newspapers. Sex-related crime stories and/or sexual dysfunction stories received the highest coverage among all the news while treatment and/or recovery related stories received very little coverage. It is crucial that the print media takes more efforts in improving reporting of psychiatry-related stories and help in de-stigmatizing psychiatry as a discipline.


Mass media owing to its wide reach influences public views about various issues including psychiatry and psychiatric illnesses. The common man has always been fascinated by mental illness and the mentally ill. The way in which mental illness is covered by various media sources hence, becomes crucial in determining how it is perceived. Mass media has mostly stigmatized mental illness by reinforcing negative stereotypes such as people with mental illness are childlike,[sup][1] antisocial and dangerous to themselves, and the society.[sup][2],[3] Such stereotypes can lead people to believe that mentally ill are “evil” leading to their devaluation and stigmatization.[sup][4]

In terms of news coverage on television, what is covered is as important as how it is covered. Various visuals can psychologically affect the viewer. Similarly in print media, what is covered is as important as how and where it is covered. The placement of the news piece within the newspaper is an important factor that affects how it is read and perceived by the readers.[sup][5] In fact, the placement of certain news stories in the newspaper affects its probability of being read, for instance, stories on the left-hand side of a newspaper were seen significantly earlier than stories on the right hand side by the readers in a study by Hansen.[sup][6] It is also likely that “front-page” placement of news stories may affect the reader more than “other-page” placement. There have been a large number of policies and reforms for educating public about mental illness and for de-stigmatizing psychiatry as a discipline. Recently through television advertisements, ( (last accessed 20 July, 2013)) the National Mental Health Program, India [sup][7] has taken an initiative to educate public about mental illnesses so that they see it like any other illness and seek treatment for the same without feeling stigmatized. The relationship between public opinions and media is to some extent bi-directional, with evidence of causal pathway running from negative media coverage to the prejudicial pathway in the public minds.[sup][8]

Most media coverage of mental illness, suicides (both completed and attempted), and sex-related crimes are third party accounts such as information from friends, family, or the reporters' own version. Currently, there are guidelines for coverage of suicide-related news but not for other psychiatric illnesses. There is no data from the Indian subcontinent regarding how psychiatry-related news is covered in the print media. We conducted a preliminary study to understand this issue. This paper is a cross-sectional study of news coverage related to psychiatry and psychiatric illnesses in two of the most widely read dailies from the city of Mumbai over a period of 3 months. …

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