Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Master of Arts

Program

Psychology

Supervisor

Dr. Jason Brown

Abstract

There is research on media representations of mental health that suggests there is a tendency to portray mental health as problematic and those who are affected by mental illness as dangerous. It is evident there has been an increase in anti-stigma media campaigns. However, the effects of these efforts on beliefs held by members of the public has been mixed. What is most surprising from the literature is a lack of research about how people who have personal experience with mental illness interpret media messages. Individuals with and without lived experience participated in a structured conceptualization process known as concept mapping. Members of each independently grouped together the same news headlines and rated them in importance. Concept maps were constructed for each group and compared. It was found that people with lived experience tended to interpret headlines in a more literal manner while those without lived experience tended to identify underlining themes. The results were compared to the literature and implications were discussed.