Psychosis and Violence: the media's influence
A guest blog from Lucy Daszkiewicz
Nicola Edgington jailed for 37 years for killing grandmother in street knife attack - Judge brands schizophrenic Nicola Edgington a 'calculated' killer (London Evening Standard, 4th March, 2013)
Two sisters whose mother was beheaded by a man with paranoid schizophrenia in a supermarket on Tenerife have met his family in north Wales. (BBC, May 13 2013)
A man who set fire to three men, two in a pub garden, has been detained under the Mental Health Act. (BBC, 15 April, 2013)
Mum ... admitted her four-year-old daughter’s manslaughter at their Moss Side flat last year after being diagnosed with schizophrenia. (
Evening News, 28th February, 2013) Manchester
All these headlines appeared in the top 5 articles relating to schizophrenia. The sad thing in my opinion is that schizophrenia is a serious condition that affects around 1% of the population (Lieberman, Stroup & Perkins, 2012). It is characterized by symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, and struggle with building social relationships leading to them becoming socially isolated (Carr & McNulty, 2006). In addition to this people who are diagnosed with schizophrenia are approximately 13 times more likely to die by suicide, with the greatest risk being after the recovery from the first psychotic episode (Lieberman et al, 2012).
Gonza´lez-Torres et al. (2007) found that people who have schizophrenia face the stigma of being labelled dangerous in many aspects of their lives and may use social isolation as a way to defend themselves from this. Hocking (2003) identified that as a result of stigma people with schizophrenia may struggle with employment and housing, and a key influence on peoples perception is the media's portrayal. Unfortunately the reporting of schizophrenia is often misleading within the media and can be used in a metaphorical sense leading people to confuse the condition with other disorders such as multiple personality disorder (Clement & Foster, 2008).
It is important to point out that different media sources have different effects on peoples perception of mental health. Clement and Foster (2008) found that tabloids and television have the effect of stigmatising mental ill health more than broadsheet newspapers. In addition the amount of television that people watch positively correlated with the level of negativity people felt towards those with mental health problems.
In fact, research has pointed out that 95% of murders are committed by people without psychiatric problems, and in reality, people who have psychosis are more likely to hurt themselves than other people (Ferriman, 2000). In addition there is only a small increase in likelihood that people who are diagnosed with schizophrenia will commit a violent crime compared to the rest of the population (Fazel et al., 2009). The variable that appears to make the most difference is whether the individual has a substance abuse problem (Fazel et al., 2009). Duckworth et al., (2003) suggest that what we need is to educate through the means of media instead of demonising and misleading people, and that maybe by using terms such as schizophrenia correctly we can make it more socially acceptable so that people do not feel stigmatised and reluctant to seek help.
BBC News (2013).
Leicester arsonist set fire to men in pub garden
(published 15th April 2013). retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-22153117
BBC News (2013).
murder victim's daughters meet killer's family (published 13th May 2013).
Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-22504026
Clement, S., & Foster, N. (2008). Newspaper reporting on schizophrenia: a content analysis of five national newspapers at two time points. Schizophrenia research, 98(1), 178-183. Duckworth, K., Halpern, J. H., Schutt, R. K., & Gillespie, C. (2003). Use of schizophrenia as a metaphor in US newspapers. Psychiatric Services, 54(10), 1402-1404.
Fazel, S., Långström, N., Hjern, A., Grann, M., & Lichtenstein, P. (2009). Schizophrenia, substance abuse, and violent crime. JAMA: the journal of the American Medical Association, 301(19), 2016-2023. Ferriman, A. (2000). Press: The stigma of schizophrenia. BMJ: British Medical Journal, 320(7233), 522.
González-Torres, M. A., Oraa, R., Arístegui, M., Fernández-Rivas, A., & Guimon, J. (2007). Stigma and discrimination towards people with schizophrenia and their family members. Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology, 42(1), 14-23. Hocking, B. (2003). Reducing mental illness stigma and discrimination-everybody's business. Medical Journal of