Monday 25 May 2020

In My Words (A Document Analysis of Newspaper Articles in Malta)

The aim of this exercise was to identify and explore the main discourse-types and discursive themes related to mental health found within main local newspapers articles

Mental Health articles published over the past year in three main newspapers in Malta were accessed. Keywords used: Mental Health; Mount Carmel Hospital, Psychiatry, Suicide, Depression, STOPSTIGMA

Main Findings/ Recommendations

  •   In the newspapers located, the type of discourse used in articles related to mental health was typically neutral or negatively critical. In most cases, negatively critical articles were not addressed at mental illness itself but at inadequacies in care provision. No instances of the use of stigmatizing discourse were encountered – this contrasts with literature available on media-reporting in other countries.
  •   The document analysis process showed that articles related to mental health within main newspapers in Malta (within the chosen timeframe) could be categorized into ten main themes as follows:

o Physical state of the local Psychiatric Hospital

o Staff shortages as the main service delivery problem

o Required improvements in current service delivery e.g. need for better community services, children and adolescents services etc.

o Queries/Investigations related to specific cases of individuals with a mental illness and their treatment

o Need for a national mental health strategy
o Awareness initiatives
o Need for further professional training
o General information articles about mental health experiences of mental illness

  •   The vast majority of articles were written by/ in collaboration with mental health professionals or else based on research carried out by the journalist himself/herself.
  •   Although some of the articles were written in collaboration with service users, these were found to be scarce. Such articles that could be found were mostly addressed at eliciting the service user’s experience of mental illness.
  •   There is an urgent need to empower people with mental health problems to speak up and act as community spokespeople and direct informants to journalists. This may help to put a human face to mental health problems. Such service user involvement should not be solely targeted at eliciting the experience of the mental illness itself but should also target issues such as what actual people with mental health problems need from services and from the general community in order to enjoy a good quality of life.
  •   As in other countries, media skills programmes would need to be set up in order to train individuals who have experienced mental health problems and who are willing to act as spokespeople.

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