The not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder (NCRMD) designation remains widely misunderstood by the public. Such misunderstandings may also be reflected in the media. As such, the aim of this study is to conduct a preliminary examination of the tone and content of recent Canadian newspaper articles where NCRMD is a major theme, comparing these to generic articles about mental illness.
Articles about mental illness were gathered from major Canadian newspapers. These were then divided into two categories: 1) articles where NCRMD was a major theme and 2) articles where NCRMD was not a major theme. Articles were then coded for the presence or absence of 1) a negative tone, 2) stigmatising tone/content, 3) recovery/rehabilitation as a theme, and 4) shortage of resources/poor quality of care as a theme.
The retrieval strategy resulted in 940 articles. Fourteen percent (n = 131) of all articles had NCRMD as a major theme. In comparison to generic articles about mental illness, articles with NCRMD as a major theme were significantly more likely to have a negative tone (P < 0.001) and stigmatising tone/content (P < 0.001) and significantly less likely to have recovery/rehabilitation (P < 0.001) or shortage of resources/poor quality of care as a theme (P < 0.001).
Articles with NCRMD as a theme were overwhelmingly negative and almost never focused on recovery or rehabilitation, in stark comparison to generic articles about mental illness.