Schizophrenia In The Media: What A Difference A Name Makes

Although the Japanese term for schizophrenia was changed in 2002 to reduce the stigma attached to the condition, it continued to be associated with crime in the newspapers.

AsianScientist (Dec. 11, 2015) – After a change in the Japanese medical name of schizophrenia the old term almost disappeared from use and may have contributed to reducing discrimination and the social stigma attached to mental illness, researchers have found. However, the study, published in the Schizophrenia Bulletin, also found that articles using the new term tended to associate it with crime, suggesting a trend in Japanese media coverage of mental illness.

Previous studies in Japan and elsewhere had suggested that that common association of schizophrenia with crime in many articles in the mass media contributes to discrimination and stigmatization of schizophrenia.

The medical term for schizophrenia in Japan was changed in 2002 from “seishin-bunretsu-byō” (mind-split disease) to “tōgō-shitchō-shō” (integration disorder) with the aim of reducing stigma attached to the condition. However, there have been no comprehensive studies exploring the impact of the name change on mass media portrayal of schizophrenia.

Lecturer Shinsuke Koike at the University of Tokyo Division for Counselling and Support/Division for Health Service Promotion and his colleagues examined 22 million newspaper articles published over a period of 29 years between 1 January 1985 and 31 December 2013 in four national newspapers (Asahi, Sankei, Mainichi, and Yomiuri).

The researchers used text mining techniques to extract and analyse articles that included the old and new terms for schizophrenia in their headlines or full text. The results showed that while 38.9 percent of articles used both the old and new terms for schizophrenia in 2002, only three articles used the old term after 2004. However, 24.5 percent of words used in headlines of articles relating to schizophrenia that were published after the change were related to crime, and there was no difference in this trend either before or after the name change.

The researchers suggest that articles for criminal and violent cases featuring schizophrenia should be more focused on the environmental background such as socio-economic background, family adversity, and alcohol and substance problems.

“We know from criminology research that crimes are related to socio-economic background (poverty), family adversity (parental divorce and maltreatment), and alcohol and illegal substance abuse more than mental illnesses such as schizophrenia,” said Koike.

“In mass media reports, criminal and violent cases should be discussed taking into account other factors to allow a more nuanced debate, not be simplistically related to mental illness,” Koike added.

The article can be found at: Koike et al. (2015) Effect of Name Change of Schizophrenia on Mass Media between 1985 and 2013 in Japan: A Text Data Mining Analysis.


Source: The University of Tokyo; Photo: mrhayata/Flickr/CC.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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