Measuring Trivialization of Mental Illness: Developing a Scale of Perceptions that Mental Illness Symptoms are Beneficial

Rachelle L. Pavelko, Jessica Myrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Much of the extant research on representations of mental illness in the media have focused on stigmatization. The negative effects of these stigmatizing portrayals on individuals with mental illness are serious. However, recent scholarship has identified another phenomenon in the mediated portrayal of mental illness whereby these conditions are trivialized. As opposed to stigmatizing portrayals that make people with mental illness seem violent and incompetent, media portrayals that trivialize mental illnesses often treat the symptoms of these conditions (e.g., organizational ability for people with obsessive compulsive disorder or high energy levels for people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) as benefits, thereby diminishing the seriousness of these conditions. The aim of the present study was to develop a reliable and valid scale for assessing how individuals perceive symptoms of mental illnesses as benefits (and, thereby, trivialize these illnesses). Results across three studies support the existence of a reliable and valid measure whereby symptoms demark individuals with a mental illness as receiving a benefit. By establishing this scale, researchers will be better suited to assess the potential intersections and interaction of processes related to mental illness trivialization and stigmatization, both through media portrayals and through everyday interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalHealth Communication
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

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Stereotyping
mental illness
Electron energy levels
Aptitude
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity
Research Personnel
stigmatization
Research
ADHD
interaction
illness
energy
ability

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication

Cite this

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title = "Measuring Trivialization of Mental Illness: Developing a Scale of Perceptions that Mental Illness Symptoms are Beneficial",
abstract = "Much of the extant research on representations of mental illness in the media have focused on stigmatization. The negative effects of these stigmatizing portrayals on individuals with mental illness are serious. However, recent scholarship has identified another phenomenon in the mediated portrayal of mental illness whereby these conditions are trivialized. As opposed to stigmatizing portrayals that make people with mental illness seem violent and incompetent, media portrayals that trivialize mental illnesses often treat the symptoms of these conditions (e.g., organizational ability for people with obsessive compulsive disorder or high energy levels for people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) as benefits, thereby diminishing the seriousness of these conditions. The aim of the present study was to develop a reliable and valid scale for assessing how individuals perceive symptoms of mental illnesses as benefits (and, thereby, trivialize these illnesses). Results across three studies support the existence of a reliable and valid measure whereby symptoms demark individuals with a mental illness as receiving a benefit. By establishing this scale, researchers will be better suited to assess the potential intersections and interaction of processes related to mental illness trivialization and stigmatization, both through media portrayals and through everyday interactions.",
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