Communicating Illness: Depictions of Mental Illness and Cancer in Canadian News Media
thesisposted on 2021-05-23, 13:21 authored by Samantha Sexton
This Major Research Paper (MRP) investigates how mental illness and physical illness are portrayed in Canadian print media and analyzes if and how this contributes to the social stigmatization of mental illness. The MRP explores the following questions: What metaphoric and figurative language is used by the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail to depict cancer and mental illness? How is authority depicted in newspaper articles about mental illness and physical illness in the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail? What types of stories about cancer and mental illness are most commonly published by the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail? A discourse analysis was used to analyze the ways both illnesses were consciously and unconsciously characterized in 58 articles from two of Canada’s most widely circulated newspapers. The quoted authorities and dominant story types were recorded in an attempt to further reveal how both illnesses are framed by the Canadian news media. The results indicated that the most commonly used metaphor within the cancer discourse was the war metaphor. Mental illness was commonly characterized as a loss of control. Patients were quoted significantly more often in articles about cancer than mental illness, suggesting that those with mental illness are not given a prominent voice in characterizing their own illness. Cancer stories were often related to new research. However, crime was most commonly associated with mental illness. These results frame cancer as illness that can be heroically battled collectively. On the contrary, mental illness is framed as a hopeless, personal affliction. These results may suggest that news media depictions of mental illness contribute to the stigmatization of the illness.