Impact of economic crisis on the social representation of mental health: Analysis of a decade of newspaper coverage [2017]

Mass media plays a fundamental role in how communities understand mental health and its treatment. However, the effect of major events such as economic crises on the depiction of mental health is still unclear.

This study aimed at analyzing representations of mental health and its treatment and the impact of the 2008 economic crisis.

In total, 1,000 articles were randomly selected from two newspapers from a period before and after the economic crisis. These articles were analyzed with a closed coding system that classified the news as good or bad news according to the presence of themes associated with positive or stigmatizing representations.

The results show a positive representation of mental health and a negative representation of treatment. Furthermore, the economic crisis had a negative impact on the representation of mental health, but not on treatment.

These findings suggest that the representation of mental health is multifaceted and may be affected differently in its dimensions. There is a need for stigma-reducing interventions that both account for this complexity and are sensitive to context and period.

David Dias Neto, Maria João Figueiras, Sónia Campos, Patrícia Tavares

International Journal of Social Psychiatry, Vol 63, Issue 8, 2017