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Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2011 Jul;45(7):539-48. doi: 10.3109/00048674.2011.585605.

Comparison of British national newspaper coverage of homicide committed by perpetrators with and without mental illness.

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1
School of Population Health, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, Western Australia 6009, Australia. m.kalucy@exemail.com.au

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

Adverse newspaper reporting of mental illness and in particular, violence committed by a mentally ill person, is thought to contribute to stigma. However, violent events are also considered highly newsworthy by journalists. The aim of this study was to compare the likelihood of newspaper reporting for convicted perpetrators of homicide with and without a history of contact with mental health services.

METHOD:

A 12 month (April 2000-March 2001) cohort of 577 homicide perpetrators with and without a history of contact with mental health services in England and Wales was examined. These cases were identified by the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness. By examining 12 national newspapers, we compared the likelihood of reporting homicide perpetrators with and without mental illness.

RESULTS:

Under half (228 cases, 40%) of the homicide perpetrators were reported in at least one of the study newspapers. Under a fifth (94 cases, 16%) of perpetrators had a history of contact with mental health services and such previous contact did not increase the likelihood of newspaper reporting (odds ratio 1.0 (0.6-1.6)).

CONCLUSIONS:

Previous contact with mental health services did not influence the newsworthiness of a homicide perpetrator. The stigmatizing effect of reporting homicide by perpetrators with mental illness may relate more to the quality of reporting rather than selective over-reporting.

PMID:
21718123
DOI:
10.3109/00048674.2011.585605
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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