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Newspaper reporting of mental illness

Namino Ottewell (School of Social Sciences, Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan)

Journal of Public Mental Health

ISSN: 1746-5729

Article publication date: 19 June 2017




The purpose of this paper is to examine a time trend in newspaper reporting of mental illness in Japan between 1987 and 2014.


Four high-circulation national newspapers (the Yomiuri newspaper, the Asahi newspaper, the Mainichi newspaper and the Nikkei Newspaper) were selected for analysis. Articles were analysed using qualitative content analysis (n=448).


Whilst articles concerning the dangerousness of those with mental illness occupied a high proportion of coverage between 1987 and 2014, an overall shift is apparent whereby there is now more reporting of mental illness in relation to stress than in relation to dangerousness, particularly for depression. In contrast, schizophrenia was often reported in the context of violent crime. Information on the treatment, symptoms and prevalence of mental illness was rarely reported.

Social implications

While the nature of newspaper coverage of mental illness has been changing, there still is over-representation of dangerousness of mental illness, particularly of schizophrenia. For improving the public’s images of mental illness, it is hoped to reduce the proportion of reporting about dangerousness and to increase the proportion of reporting about treatment, symptoms and prevalence of mental illness and personal stories of those affected.


The present study is the first to examine changes in Japanese newspaper coverage over time and at the variation in reporting among diagnoses.



Ottewell, N. (2017), "Newspaper reporting of mental illness", Journal of Public Mental Health, Vol. 16 No. 2, pp. 78-85.



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