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A systematic review of the impact of media reports of severe mental illness on stigma and discrimination, and interventions that aim to mitigate any adverse impact



This review aims to summarise the evidence on the impact of news media and social media reports of severe mental illness (SMI) on stigma, and interventions that aim to mitigate any adverse impact.


A systematic search of electronic databases was conducted in December 2017 to identify studies that report on the impact of media coverage or media interventions on stigma related to schizophrenia, psychosis, bipolar disorder, or mental illness in general. Data were synthesised narratively.


12 studies met inclusion criteria; seven explored the impact of news media on stigma towards SMI or general mental illness, two explored the impact of social media, while three evaluated interventions that aimed to mitigate this impact. These studies showed that positive news reports and social media posts are likely to lead to reductions in stigmatizing attitudes and negative reports and social media posts are likely to increase stigmatizing attitudes. There were a limited number of interventions aiming to mitigate the negative impact of news reports of mental illness on stigma; however, these were ineffective. Interventions with media professionals appear to be successful at reducing their stigmatizing attitudes, but can also act to increase both positive and negative reports in the media.


Given the limited research evidence on the impact of news and social media on stigma towards SMI, and on the effectiveness of interventions aiming to mitigate this impact, further studies of higher quality are needed in this area. Due to mixed findings, interventions with media professionals are also an area of research priority.

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The study was funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health, Australia. The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the funder.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Anna M. Ross.

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Conflict of interest

Three of the authors were authors on two studies included in this review. All authors declare that there is no further conflict of interest.

Appendix A: Systematic search strategy

Appendix A: Systematic search strategy

  PubMed PsycINFO
1 stigma[TIAB] OR stigmatization[TIAB] OR stigmatization[TIAB] OR anti-stigma[TIAB] OR “Social Stigma“[Mesh] OR “Social Discrimination“[Mesh] OR “Attitude“[Mesh] OR “Attitude of Health Personnel“[Mesh] OR “Prejudice“[Mesh] OR “Social Distance“[Mesh] OR Stereotyping[Mesh] OR Social Perception[Mesh] OR “Rejection (Psychology)“[Mesh] OR Shame[Mesh] (discrimination or stigma$ or “social distance”).mp. or stigma/ or “Attitude Change”/ or Prejudice/ or “Social Discrimination”/ or “Social Approval”/ or “Social Acceptance”/ or Labeling/ or exp “Social Perception”/ or Attitudes/ or “Adolescent Attitudes”/ or “Adult Attitudes”/ or “Child Attitudes”/ or “Counselor Attitudes”/ or “Employee Attitudes”/ or “Employer Attitudes”/ or “Explicit Attitudes”/ or “Female Attitudes”/ or “Health Attitudes”/ or exp “Health Personnel Attitudes”/ or “Implicit Attitudes”/ or “Male Attitudes”/ or “Parental Attitudes”/ or “Psychological Attitudes”/ or “Public Opinion”/ or “Stereotyped Attitudes”/ or “Student Attitudes”/ or “Teacher Attitudes”/
2 Mental Disorders[Mesh:NoExp] OR “Schizophrenia Spectrum and Other Psychotic Disorders“[Mesh] OR “Bipolar and Related Disorders“[Mesh] OR “Mentally Ill Persons“[Mesh] OR schizophrenia[TIAB] OR psychosis[TIAB] OR psychotic[TIAB] OR bipolar[TIAB] Mental Disorders/ OR exp “Chronic Mental Illness”/ OR exp “Bipolar Disorder”/ OR exp Mania/ OR exp Psychosis/ OR “Schizoaffective Disorder”/ OR “Psychiatric Patients”/ OR “Mental illness (Attitudes Toward)”/ OR “mental illness”.mp
3 “Communications Media“[Mesh] OR “Journalism“[Mesh] OR journalism[TIAB] OR journalist[TIAB] OR media[TIAB] OR news[TIAB] OR newspaper[TIAB] OR television[TIAB] OR radio[TIAB] exp Communications Media/ OR exp Journalists/ OR journalis$.mp OR OR news$.mp OR OR
4 “Social Media”[Mesh] OR “Social media” [TIAB] OR facebook[TIAB] OR twitter[TIAB] exp Social Media/ OR (“Social media” OR facebook OR twitter
5 (1 AND 2) AND (3 OR 4) (1 AND 2) AND (3 OR 4)
6 Limit to Publications > = 2000 and Language = English Limit to Publications > = 2000 and Language = English

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Ross, A.M., Morgan, A.J., Jorm, A.F. et al. A systematic review of the impact of media reports of severe mental illness on stigma and discrimination, and interventions that aim to mitigate any adverse impact. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 54, 11–31 (2019).

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  • Stigma
  • Severe mental illness
  • Schizophrenia
  • Media intervention
  • News media
  • Social media
  • Journalism