The Dueling Influences on Stigma toward Mental Illness: Effects of Interpersonal Familiarity and Stigmatizing Mediated Portrayals of Mental Illness on Attitudes

Bridget Rubenking
Cheryl C. Bracken, Cleveland State University

Abstract

Popular media is both a common source for information about mental illness and notorious for its disproportionately negative and violent portrayals of those with mental illness. This research undertook an experiment (N = 92) to explore the competing influences of mass communication messages and interpersonal familiarity/ experience with people with mental illness on stigmatizing attitudes toward the mentally ill. Results demonstrate that exposure to negative, violent mediated portrayals of the mentally ill increase stigmatizing attitudes toward the mentally ill, while exposure to positive, sympathetic portrayals of the mentally ill relates to less stigmatizing attitudes toward the mentally ill. Greater interpersonal familiarity with those with mental illness was related to less stigmatizing attitudes toward the mentally ill regardless of viewing condition. Transportation and presence experienced while viewing the narratives with mental illness portrayals was proposed as a contributing mechanism behind adopting story consistent beliefs, but it was not related to adopting narrative consistent attitudes.