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A content analysis was used to describe the association between psychiatric disorders and aggression in the printed media in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Articles were chosen from the most widely read daily newspapers and magazines in both countries during five one-week periods in 2007. A coding manual was developed and a content analysis was performed. Aggressive behavior was assessed by two separate categories - the role of the mentally ill person in the violent act (perpetrator/victim) and the type of aggressive act (homicide, suicide).
A total of 375 articles were analyzed. Main findings: 1) The proportion of articles depicting psychiatric disorders together with either self- or other-directed aggressive behavior is 31.2%; 2) Homicide was most frequently mentioned in the context of psychotic disorders and schizophrenia, while affective disorders were most frequently associated with both completed suicides and homicides; 3) Eating disorders and anxiety disorders were seldom associated with any kind of aggressive behavior, including self-harm; 4) The vast majority of articles presented mentally ill people as perpetrators, and these articles were more often coded as stigmatizing. 5) Articles with aggressive behavior mentioned on the cover are roughly as frequent as those with aggressive behavior in the later sections of the media (36.7% vs. 30.7%).
The results are similar to the findings in countries with longer histories of consistent advocacy for improved depiction of mental illness in the media. However, we have shown that persons with mental illness are still over-portrayed as perpetrators of violent crimes, especially homicides.