It has been suggested that the medical profession contributes to the stigmatisation of those who experience mental health problems, through ‘iatrogenic’ stigma. This study explores how pharmaceutical companies and their advertising agencies think psychiatrists view people who suffer from mental health problems, as expressed through the design and content of advertisements for neuroleptic medication intended for the psychiatric profession. All pharmaceutical company advertisements appearing in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 1999 were analysed: quantitatively as to drug type, advertisement format and demographic characteristics of subjects portrayed in advertisements, and qualitatively as to content, accompanying text and the theme of the advertisement. Although adverts for neuroleptic drugs constitute a minority of all adverts appearing in the journal in 1999, they are larger than antidepressant adverts, use more pages, and are more likely to portray people suffering from schizophrenia as inactive, socially isolated, and leading empty, meaningless lives. Some of the images resonate with the popular mythology of schizophrenia as ‘other’ and ‘split personality’. From this we conclude that pharmaceutical company advertisements for neuroleptic drugs do indeed present stigmatising images of people suffering from schizophrenia. Editors of medical journals should scrutinise advertisements for potentially stigmatising content. It is time for a debate about the position of glossy advertisements in the pages of medical journals.Declaration of interest: Philip Thomas is co‐chair of the Critical Psychiatry Network and has written extensive critiques of the biomedical model.
Thomas, P., Phipps‐Jones, C. and Flanagan, S. (2004), "Between science and fiction: neuroleptic drug advertisements, stigma and schizophrenia", Journal of Public Mental Health, Vol. 3 No. 2, pp. 33-41. https://doi.org/10.1108/17465729200400011Download as .RIS
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