The Portrayal of Suicide and Mental Illness: A Province-Wide Survey of Nova Scotia
This study tested the feasibility of a surveillance system of the media's portrayal of suicide and mental illness in Nova Scotia. The general public was asked to monitor nonfiction media in the province using standardized checklists over 6 months. The checklists were available on the World Wide Web and various locations in the community, and participants could identify either appropriate or inappropriate coverage. The researchers received 414 submissions covering 366 media items (304 on mental illness and 62 on suicide) during the 6-month survey: 311 from print media and 55 from radio and television. Ratings showed good agreement. On most dimensions, the majority of media items were of good quality. However, details about getting appropriate help were included in only 8.5% of media reports. Items covering suicide were 3.5 times as likely to contain inappropriate content as those on mental illness (95% CI = 1.5-8.0). These results are guiding the development of media guidelines in Nova Scotia. The study also showed that the present methodology can be used to monitor any subsequent effect on the portrayal of mental illness and suicide in the media.
Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health