News frames and attitudes toward mental illness
Informed by framing theory, the present study tested whether stimulus material designed to include pertinent educational background information about mental illness would result in more favorable or less unfavorable attitudes toward people with mental illness. The study is significant because it tested participant attitudes both before and after exposure to a newspaper article linking violence and mental illness, specifically schizophrenia. Using a simple pre-test/post-test within-subjects experimental design, the study also examined whether exposure to general media, including news and entertainment content, influences attitudes toward people with mental illness. Results indicated no significant relationship between general news and entertainment media exposure and attitudes toward people with mental illness, but suggested other variables such as personal knowledge of mental illness may influence attitudes toward people with mental illness. The study also found that the inclusion of factual, educational material in an otherwise stereotypical article linking mental illness and violence may foster less negative attitudes toward people with mental illness. The study suggests one possible, and practical, method for reporters and editors to help mitigate the stigma attached to mental illness.