The unintended consequences of campaigns designed to challenge stigmatising representations of mental illness in the media

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The media is widely recognised as contributing to stigma associated with mental illness by portraying it in connection with violence and/or undesirable traits. In response, campaigns directed at policing language use, imagery and story content in the media have been implemented. But these interventions can themselves perpetuate stereotypes and assumptions that ultimately run counter to the original intent of challenging stigma. By way of illustration this paper analyses an Australian campaign that I argue invites people to see stigma in innocuous uses of ordinary language and imagery, effectively associating mental illness with that which it seeks to challenge. The grounds for its criticism and praise of stories about mental illness are also often tenuous and based on a limited approach to determining the impact of story content. The pitfalls of this type of campaign can be avoided by taking heed of the shifts in thinking advocated by postpsychiatry and the deconstructionist strategies employed by activists in the mental health field
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-236
Number of pages20
JournalSocial Semiotics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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