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A Critical Perspective on Mental Health News in Six European Countries: How Are "Mental Health/Illness" and "Mental Health Literacy" Rhetorically Constructed?

Journal article
Authors Laura Van Beveren
Kris Rutten
Gunnel Hensing
Ntani Spyridoula
Viktor Schønning
Malin Axelsson
Claudi Bockting
Ann Buysse
Ine De Neve
Mattias Desmet
Alexis Dewaele
Theodoros Giovazolias
Dewi Hannon
Konstantinos Kafetsios
Reitske Meganck
Simon Øverland
Sofia Triliva
Joke Vandamme
Published in Qualitative health research
Volume 30
Issue 9
Pages 1362-1378
ISSN 1049-7323
Publication year 2020
Published at Institute of Medicine, School of Public Health and Community Medicine
Pages 1362-1378
Language en
Subject categories Health Sciences


In this study, we aim to contribute to the field of critical health communication research by examining how notions of mental health and illness are discursively constructed in newspapers and magazines in six European countries and how these constructions relate to specific understandings of mental health literacy. Using the method of cluster-agon analysis, we identified four terminological clusters in our data, in which mental health/illness is conceptualized as "dangerous," "a matter of lifestyle," "a unique story and experience," and "socially situated." We furthermore found that we cannot unambiguously assume that biopsychiatric discourses or discourses aimed at empathy and understanding are either exclusively stigmatizing or exclusively empowering and normalizing. We consequently call for a critical conception of mental health literacy arguing that all mental health news socializes its audience in specific understandings of and attitudes toward mental health (knowledge) and that discourses on mental health/illness can work differently in varying contexts.

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