2003 issue 4

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Volume 12, issue 4

Original article

Between tolerance and discrimination – the stereotype of schizophrenia in influential Polish newspapers and journals

Postępy Psychiatrii i Neurologii, 2003, 12 (4), 403-411
Keywords: schizophrenia, newspapers, social stereotype

Abstract

Negative attitudes encountered by patients with schizophrenia may result from people's individual experiences and prejudices as well as from popularisation of a distorted image of schizophrenia in mass media.

Aim: To assess how often and in what way persons suffering from schizophrenia are presented in the press influencing the public opinion.

Material and method: In website archives of selected newspapers („Gazeta Wyborcza", „Rzeczpospolita") and weeklies („Wprost", „Polityka", „Newsweek" – Polish edition) that have a considerable impact on the public opinion in Poland, 408 articles published in the year 2002 and containing target words "schizophrenia", or "schizophrenic" were found and analysed.

Results: Examples of schizophrenia-related quotations were categorised into several thematic groups, presenting schizophrenia in the context of disease fine arts, metaphor; something contradictory/illogical, and social pathology. The analysis has shown that irrespective of the context, schizophrenia-related passages very often described negative characteristics of somebody or something, and pertained to a socially pathological, shocking or somehow threatening situation.

Discussion: A considerable discrepancy can be seen between the declared and practically demonstrated in publications attitude towards schizophrenic patients, frequently described as a social evil, burden, and threat. The negative stereotype of the disease is reinforced by utterances of persons well known to the public who identify schizophrenia with a lack of logic in behaviour or activity, Propagation of such negative attitudes toward those suffering from schizophrenia contributes to their discrimination.

Conclusions: Acting on behalf of improvement of schizophrenic patients' condition must include efforts aimed at elimination of negative stereotypes affecting these patients.

Address for correspondence:
Dr Katarzyna Borysewicz, Poradnia Zdrowia Psychicznego Samodzielnego
Publicznego Zespołu Zakładów Opieki Zdrowotnej,
ul. Niechorska 27, 72-300 Gryfice, e-mail: Katarzyna.9395921@pharmanet.com.pl