Contesting the text: Canadian media depictions of the conflation of mental illness and criminality.
Authors: Olstead R
Source: Sociology of Health and Illness 24(5):621-43.
Abstract: The authors discuss how the media have portrayed the individuals with mental illness as being violent and having criminal actions. There is negligible attention to the evaluation of the textual strategies whereby such representations gain currency. The current study focuses on examining the techniques utilised by the popular press including the ways in which power, knowledge and ideology articulates in and through media reports about mental illness. This study evaluates the data generated out of a discourse analysis of 195 articles from two major Canadian newspapers over the past decade. The results of this study suggest that the linkages between criminality and mental illness are achieved through the use of ideological, polarised talk that creates distinctions between Us and Them, as well as through a hierarchy of mental illness. The three portrayals that are explored within the hierarchy of illness include the mentally ill criminal, the passive patient and class based illness depiction. Several studies have found that, throughout the various representations, the common reports are that the individuals with mental illness are both rational as well as irrational. A varying degree of agencies afford individuals with mental illness on class lines. Thus the responsibility and blame can therefore be implied to be substantiated. (CIRRIE Abstract)
Institution: Dept of Sociology, York University, 4700 Keele St, Toronto M3J 1P3, Canada; firstname.lastname@example.org.