Factual Television Documentaries and Mental Distress: A Narrative Analysis

Prof Doc Thesis

Joseph, Candice 2016. Factual Television Documentaries and Mental Distress: A Narrative Analysis. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London Psychology https://doi.org/10.15123/PUB.5413
AuthorsJoseph, Candice
TypeProf Doc Thesis

Introduction: The media is the main information source about mental distress and influences people’s meaning-making. Overall, biomedical narratives of mental distress and portrayals of dangerousness have mainly been depicted. Print media is the most researched genre overall while in the realm of non-fictional television, news programmes have been explored the most. Studies have mainly utilised quantitative methodologies and there is a paucity of research on factual television documentaries (FTDs).
Method: A qualitative study which utilised a narrative analysis methodology was conducted to analyse portrayals of mental distress, dominant narratives, counternarratives and absent narratives in two FTDs broadcasted in the UK. Moving visual images were analysed in conjunction with spoken words.
Results: ‘Anxiety’ is portrayed as a ‘condition’ with ranges of severity. Psychosocial causes are purported and psychological therapy is portrayed as a means for ‘patients’ to learn how to manage ‘anxiety’ themselves. In contrast, ‘psychosis’ is portrayed as a mental ‘illness’ which can be triggered by stressful life events and substance use. People who experience ‘psychosis’ are portrayed as unpredictable and potentially violent, but also victims of negative media portrayals. Interventions such as medication and ‘sectioning’ are portrayed as necessary and humane. Dominant medical narratives were common to both documentaries, however, the Anxiety documentary also constructed a cognitive-behavioural subnarrative. Counternarratives of resistance/ challenges to interventions were constructed by people who access services (PWAS) in both documentaries. Problem saturated identities were constructed for PWAS in both programmes, and alternative identities were hinted at through visual images.
Conclusions: The study highlighted more differences than similarities in portrayals and narratives constructed for ‘anxiety’ and ‘psychosis’. The potential impact of the documentaries and implications for clinical practice, research, service and policy development and public health campaigns are discussed.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.15123/PUB.5413
Publication dates
PrintFeb 2016
Publication process dates
Deposited22 Nov 2016
Publisher's version
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