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The influence of media representations on mental health practitioners

Murphy, Neil Anthony (2015) The influence of media representations on mental health practitioners. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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The debates related to the representation of the mentally ill in the media have been wide ranging over the last 20 years. Emergent representations have often been stigmatizing, claiming that the mentally ill are violent and dangerous. This study used an emergent methodological design to explore what the current representations of the mentally ill were and identify a case study from the available representations. It then examined the influence that the case study had on the thoughts and practice of experienced mental health practitioners. The study involved 8 practitioners and identified thoughts influenced by reading the case study and an academic article. Practitioner’s thoughts were captured over 3 separate interviews and by practitioners providing written reflections. At the last interview, practitioners were asked to provide comments as to what the experience of taking part in the study had meant to them. Generic themes related to risk, blame and professionalism all emerged. The study also found that practitioners were able to reflect on the influence that the material had on them, finding that only after discussing the reflections in the interviews that they became aware of some of their defensive thoughts and actions. The outcome of the study is that the media continue to present a negative representation of the mentally ill and mental health care, and that practitioner’s thoughts and actions are influenced by the media representation.

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