Impact of media reporting

Police IconResearch has indicated that for many people the media is their primary source of information about mental illness. According to national and international research, mental illness tends to be portrayed negatively in the mass media. While Australian research1. has demonstrated that media reporting  of mental illness may be improving, examples of inappropriate reporting can still be seen.
Negative reporting of mental illness appears to influence community attitudes, which in turn may lead to stigma and discrimination2. instances of negative reporting impact significantly on people experiencing mental illness and may reduce appropriate help-seeking behaviour, resulting in untreated illness and possibly contributing to suicidal thinking and behaviour3.
Australian research has shown that coverage of mental illness that results from information collected at courts or from the  police is the most problematic type of news coverage4. Many news stories from the courts about mental illness focus on violence. These stories relate to specific and relatively rare circumstances, but audiences are likely to draw generalised inferences about people diagnosed with a mental illness as a result.
As is the case in the general community, members of the media may hold misconceptions about mental illness that may influence the frame they use for a particular story. It is important, therefore, that people involved in the judiciary understand the potential impact of reporting mental illness in certain ways and are aware of the principles of best practice reporting promoted through the Mindframe Initiative.

More information about media reporting of mental illness is available from the media professionals section of this website. To access this information, please click here.


[1] Pirkis, J. & Francis, C. (2012) Mental Illness in the News and Information Media: A Critical Review. Produced for the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care, Canberra
[2]   ibid
[3]   ibid
[4] Pirkis, J., Blood, R. W., Dare, A., & Holland, K. (2008). The Media Monitoring Project: Changes in media reporting of suicide in Australian news media between 2000/01 and 2006/07. Canberra, ACT: Commonwealth of Australia.