The Impact of Films on Viewer Attitudes towards People with Schizophrenia

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The media, including television, newspapers, and popular films have been implicated in the facilitation of mental illness stigmatization by presenting negative and inaccurate depictions of various diagnoses. The current study examined the impact of film on participants’ knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors towards people with schizophrenia. A total of 106 participants completed questionnaires before and after viewing a 45-min film excerpt. Films viewed included a fear-based inaccurate, likeable-inaccurate, and an educational-accurate depiction of schizophrenia. There was also a control group. There were significant increases in stigmatizing attitudes for participants in the fear-based inaccurate group compared to the accurate and control group. Fear-based participants reported increased negative affect and endorsed statements suggesting that people with schizophrenia were unpredictable, dependent, and dangerous. These results provide support for the hypothesis that negative, inaccurate portrayals of severe mental illness enhance stigmatizing attitudes. Accurate film depictions, advocacy for social equality, and the continued education of individuals, clients, families, communities and organizations will help to mitigate the impact of films on mental illness stigmatization.



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