Mental illness and stigma: a 10-year review of portrayal through print media in Ghana (2003–2012)edit
Though strides have been made to improve the conditions of individuals with serious mental illness, stigma continues to be a challenge. Since Erving Goffman’s landmark publication, Stigma, Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity in 1963, much has been done to reduce stigma associated with mental illness. Efforts in the Western world include the de-institutionalization of mental health institutions and the creation of community-based case management support systems. Despite this progress, the story is different in the developing world. This study explores the depiction of mental illness through two main government print media in Ghana from 2003 to 2012. Emphasis was placed on observing the newspapers’ use of language to describe persons with mental illness. Information gathered was analyzed using content analysis. Findings revealed that despite the drive to change the negative discourse on mental illness, government funded media in Ghana continue to use derogatory language to describe this population. Negative descriptor words such as ‘crazy’, ‘lunatic’ and ‘mentally deranged’ or ‘mentally challenged’ continue to surface in print media. Unfortunately, the use of this language tends to perpetuate the stigmatization of mental illness and roll back some of the progress made. However, the study noted that there were several instances where the media sought to educate the public on mental illness to do away with misconceptions and stigma and to advocate for improved facilities and service provision. The study demonstrates how stigma continues to dominate the discussion on mental illness in Ghana.