This review aims to summarise the evidence on the impact of news media and social media reports of severe mental illness (SMI) on stigma, and interventions that aim to mitigate any adverse impact.
A systematic search of electronic databases was conducted in December 2017 to identify studies that report on the impact of media coverage or media interventions on stigma related to schizophrenia, psychosis, bipolar disorder, or mental illness in general. Data were synthesised narratively.
12 studies met inclusion criteria; seven explored the impact of news media on stigma towards SMI or general mental illness, two explored the impact of social media, while three evaluated interventions that aimed to mitigate this impact. These studies showed that positive news reports and social media posts are likely to lead to reductions in stigmatizing attitudes and negative reports and social media posts are likely to increase stigmatizing attitudes. There were a limited number of interventions aiming to mitigate the negative impact of news reports of mental illness on stigma; however, these were ineffective. Interventions with media professionals appear to be successful at reducing their stigmatizing attitudes, but can also act to increase both positive and negative reports in the media.
Given the limited research evidence on the impact of news and social media on stigma towards SMI, and on the effectiveness of interventions aiming to mitigate this impact, further studies of higher quality are needed in this area. Due to mixed findings, interventions with media professionals are also an area of research priority.