This critical review of historical and contemporary literature explores the role of television media in the prevalence of stigma towards persons experiencing a mental health challenge. In addition to this, the purpose of this paper is to examine the notion of perceived dangerousness, which is a concept where persons with mental illness are thought by others to be inherently dangerous.
A vigorous search of databases was undertaken for articles published between 2000 and 2016. Some seminal literature prior to 2000 was used to compare historical data with current literature. In total, 1,037 publications were reviewed against inclusion criteria.
While mental illness stigma has received much attention in the literature, television media and public perceptions of dangerousness have not. While these concepts are complex and multi-factorial, what we do understand is that approaches to address stigma have been largely unsuccessful, and that persons experiencing mental health challenges continue to be significantly disadvantaged.
Implications to practice for clinicians working in mental health on this issue have not been adequately explored within the literature. While media guidelines assist journalists to make informed choices when they portray mental health issues in television news, there are no such guidelines to inform drama television viewing.
Significantly, television’s role in perpetuation of perceptions of dangerousness has not been adequately explored as a combined co-occurring factor associated with the stigmatisation and avoidance of persons experiencing a mental health challenge. In an era when mental health challenges are on the rise, it is of great importance that we collectively seek to minimise negative impacts and improve the experiences of those with a mental health challenge through addressing stigma both individually and in television media.
Louise Alexander, Jade Sheen, Nicole Rinehart, Margaret Hay, Lee Boyd
The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice, 2018