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Mass Mediation of Mental Illness in Sport

Sport, Mental Illness, and Sociology

ISBN: 978-1-78743-470-7, eISBN: 978-1-78743-469-1

Publication date: 14 December 2018



This chapter outlines the paucity of media research attending to mental health and mental illness in sport. As such, the purpose of this chapter is to encourage critical reflection and further research on the mass mediation of mental illness in sport.


In the first part of the chapter, we review the extensive literature addressing the mass mediation of mental illness and mental health in order to provide key reference points for future scholarship. We then suggest to potential avenues for sociological study of this topic: Talcott Parson’s sick role and Guy Debord’s spectacle.


The authors find that the notion of the sick role provides insight into the assumptions underpinning athlete disclosure of mental illness as well as encouragement of help seeking behavior in relation to mental illness specifically. From a broader perspective on mental health, the authors identify a central challenge of the spectacular presentation of mental health and well-being and the lived experience.

Research Limitations/Implications

The central limitation of the field currently is the dearth of research. Similarly, in providing a broad overview of key considerations, this chapter does not undertake primary media analysis of mental illness in sport. Nonetheless, the authors outline key considerations and lines of inquiry for the field.



Gibson, K. and Gorczynski, P. (2018), "Mass Mediation of Mental Illness in Sport", Sport, Mental Illness, and Sociology (Research in the Sociology of Sport, Vol. 11), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 143-159.



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