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J Health Commun. 2017 Nov;22(11):876-884. doi: 10.1080/10810730.2017.1367338. Epub 2017 Oct 12.

Examining Differences in Audience Recall and Reaction Between Mediated Portrayals of Mental Illness as Trivializing Versus Stigmatizing.

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a Department of Film-Video and Media Studies , Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, Pennsylvania State University , University Park , Pennsylvania , USA.
b Department of Communication , Slane College of Communications and Fine Arts, Bradley University , Peoria , Illinois , USA.


Researchers have documented the ways in which media stigmatize mental illness. However, media also portray mental illness trivially when diseases are mocked, oversimplified, shown to be less severe than in actuality, or represented as beneficial to an individual. Trivialization of mental illnesses could potentially lead audiences to be less likely to seek help or less likely to support related policy efforts. Therefore, it is important to understand how audiences recall and react to stigmatizing and trivializing mental illness portrayals. An experiment (N = 175) asked participants to recall either a media portrayal where mental illness was stigmatized or a portrayal where it was trivialized. Results suggest that audiences recall certain components of stigmatization and trivialization better than others. And, recollections of trivialization were associated with different patterns of word use than stigmatization. A second experiment (N = 141) found similar patterns when showing participants specific examples of different mental illness portrayals and asking them to immediately recall the content. Overall, these results suggest that theory and conceptual models about the nature and effects of mental illness portrayals could be updated to include both stigmatization and trivialization.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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