Addressing Mental Health Stigma Through the Use of Media Primes
Mental health stigma is prevalent in society and may lead to reduced help-seeking behaviors, increased self-stigma, and misinformation about individuals with mental illness. Priming language may increase stigmatizing attitudes and behaviors, particularly, priming language in media. For that reason, it is of interest to determine how negative and positive mental health priming may influence levels of stigma. Mental health attitudes and behaviors were studied among individuals to determine whether stigma may be influenced by priming language. Participants were 215 adults, ages 18-66 (M = 24.85, SD = 11.48) from across the midwest. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three prime groups (positive, negative, neutral) in which they read articles regarding the reopening of a bakery and the opening of a dog park. The article about the bakery reopening was written in three ways, either discussing mental health negatively (negative prime group) or positively (positive prime group), or mental health was not mentioned at all (neutral prime group). Following the articles, participants were asked a series of questions regarding mental health behaviors and attitudes. Behaviors and attitudes were compared across the groups, and while the general measures of mental health behaviors and attitudes produced no significant differences, specific attitudes were significantly different across the prime groups. The results provide evidence that priming language may cause changes in specific attitudes regarding mental health stigma.
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