The presence of negative news on mental health in the digital sphere is “significant” and contributes to the creation of social stigma


In order to identify the image that spreads about mental health in the digital sphere, ScienceFlows researchers Lorena Cano, Empar Vengut and Carolina Moreno have carried out a quantitative-qualitative content analysis of news in digital media and publications of Facebook pages. One of the main conclusions they have reached is that, although most messages have a positive focus, the presence of information with negative connotations is significant enough to perpetuate social stigma.

To carry out the research, an analysis was carried out on a sample of 370 news items published between August 2016 and January 2017 and 352 Facebook pages. The analysis of the news in digital media that dealt directly with the issue of mental health showed that in 40% of the news analyzed, the approach was predominantly positive. The news that, on the contrary, treated mental health from a negative perspective represented 26% of the sample. As the authors themselves indicate, in the press negative approach has a greater cognitive effect, so the proportion of negative news is still significant and contributes to the creation and perpetuation of the social stigma associated with mental illness.

The analysis of the content on Facebook has shown how a high percentage of pages (28%) used mental health to justify the creative content of their publications, echoing the link that in the collective imagination according to which mental instability is related to artistic sensitivity or genius. Of the selected corpus, only 39% dealt directly with the issue of mental health. Of this type of content, 32% treated it in a neutral or institutional way, 5% positively and 2% negatively.

The study Images of mental health on the Internet: an analysis of the content of Facebook and digital media in Spanish has been published in the magazine Prisma Social. You can access the full publication here.