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Media Portrayals of Mental Illness and the Third-Person Effect
Unformatted Document Text:  M c K e e v e r - P a g e | 13 participants were asked questions related to attitudes toward mentally ill individuals, most respondents scored rather low on the index created to measure stigma (M = 1.45, SD =.635), indicating overall there were low levels of stigma associated with mental illness. [Insert Table 1 Here] To assess beliefs about media portrayals, respondents were asked to rate their level of agreement with statements, also measured on a 5-point scale, which was adopted from prior research assessing student attitudes about media portrayals of mental illness following the Virginia Tech shootings. 44 The mean scores (M = 3.627, SD = .721), revealed general perceptions of media portrayals of mental illness as being undesirable. Overall 60% agreed with the statement “media depictions of mental illness are usually negative,” while 74% disagreed with the statement, “individuals with mental illnesses are usually portrayed positively by the media” (see Table 2). Student attitudes about the treatment of mental illnesses were measured in a similar fashion, using the mean score (each item on a 5-point scale) of responses to items on the four-item treatment attitude scale (α =.84). 45 The results indicated that student beliefs about the treatability of mental illnesses, were, on average, positive (M = 3.7, SD = .58). [Insert Table 2 Here] In terms of student beliefs about the societal prevalence of mental illness, respondents estimated that 25.4% of the general public and 22.07% of the campus suffered from some form of mental illness (Table 3). A paired t-test confirmed that there were significant differences between student estimations regarding the general public (M=25.4, SD=12.23) and other members of the campus community, (M=22.07, SD=13.73); t (177) = 5.44, p<.0005 (two-tailed). Thus, H1, which expected student estimates of the prevalence of mental illness to be lower for members of the campus community, was supported.

Authors: McKeever, Robert.
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M c K e e v e r   -   P a g e  | 13 
 
participants were asked questions related to attitudes toward mentally ill individuals, most 
respondents scored rather low on the index created to measure stigma (M = 1.45, SD =.635), 
indicating overall there were low levels of stigma associated with mental illness.  
[Insert Table 1 Here] 
To assess beliefs about media portrayals, respondents were asked to rate their level of 
agreement with statements, also measured on a 5-point scale, which was adopted from prior 
research assessing student attitudes about media portrayals of mental illness following the 
Virginia Tech shootings.
44
 The mean scores (= 3.627, SD = .721), revealed general 
perceptions of media portrayals of mental illness as being undesirable. Overall 60% agreed with 
the statement “media depictions of mental illness are usually negative,” while 74% disagreed 
with the statement, “individuals with mental illnesses are usually portrayed positively by the 
media” (see Table 2). Student attitudes about the treatment of mental illnesses were measured in 
a similar fashion, using the mean score (each item on a 5-point scale) of responses to items on 
the four-item treatment attitude scale (α =.84).
45
 The results indicated that student beliefs about 
the treatability of mental illnesses, were, on average, positive (M = 3.7, SD = .58).  
[Insert Table 2 Here] 
In terms of student beliefs about the societal prevalence of mental illness, respondents 
estimated that 25.4% of the general public and 22.07% of the campus suffered from some form 
of mental illness (Table 3). A paired t-test confirmed that there were significant differences 
between student estimations regarding the general public (M=25.4, SD=12.23) and other 
members of the campus community, (M=22.07, SD=13.73); (177) = 5.44, p<.0005 (two-tailed).  
Thus, H1, which expected student estimates of the prevalence of mental illness to be lower for 
members of the campus community, was supported.  


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