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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 62 (2020) 12, 1030 - 1039


The stigmatisation of schizophrenia, psychosis and autism in the Flemish daily papers

E. Thys, C.I. Struyven, M. De Hert

background A considerable social stigma is attached to psychiatric disorders. Evidence shows that the portrayal of schizophrenia in the media is particularly negative. It has been proposed to replace the term schizophrenia by psychosis susceptibility or psychosis spectrum disorder.
aim Follow-up of the study of the seven Flemish newspapers published between 2008-2012: to compare the degree of stigma in reporting of autism, schizophrenia and psychosis in the Flemish daily newspapers published between 2013-2017.
method Via the websites of the seven Flemish daily newspapers, we searched for all articles published between 2013 and 2017 containing the keywords autism, schizophrenia, psychosis and related terms. The collected articles (n = 5,337) were then graded to their stigmatising content.
results In the collected articles the coverage of autism was mostly positive, whereas the coverage of schizophrenia was predominantly negative and of psychosis both positive and negative. The contrast between the reporting on autism and on schizophrenia was very substantial (p < 0.0001). The positive coverage of autism increased over time, the coverage of schizophrenia was negative in a stable way. The coverage of psychosis was only positive in the broadsheet newspapers.
conclusion The social stigma attached to schizophrenia and psychosis is poignantly reflected in the Flemish newspapers. The fact that a comparable disorder such as autism is depicted in a much more favorable way than schizophrenia indicates that a more positive image of schizophrenia is not only desirable but also achievable.

keywords autism, newspapers, psychosis, schizophrenia, stigma