"Hit by Life": Individualisation as (de-) Stigmatisation in Media Representation of Mental Illness

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The chapter examines how media representations of mental illness can be either stigmatising or destigmatising in the light of the increasing individualisation of health news journalism. The chapter analyses how, by including patient narratives, a journalistic campaign can give a voice to the individual patient who is then allowed to define her- or himself beyond a diagnosis and an illness. The analysis of the patient utterances and of the media representations shows that: 1) a diagnosis can be seen as a dividing practice that categorises the individual as a subject within a biomedical discourse; and 2) the discourse of individualisation relies on a false sense of empowerment and that the “disembedded” individuals must draw on available language and structural settings to make sense of their condition. Despite the existence of many different explanations for mental illness – sociological, psychological and medical – the biomedical discourse provides the structural and discursive setting within which the individual can be understood. This has consequences for the ability of patients, experts and journalists to contribute to media practices that destigmatise the mentally ill.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMedia Health : The Personal in Public Stories
EditorsHarald Hornmoen, Birgitte Kjos Fonn, Nathalie Hyde-Clarke, Yngve Benestad Hågvar
Number of pages20
Place of PublicationOslo
Publication date2020
ISBN (Print)9788215040844
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Mental Health
  • Stigmatisation
  • Bio-power
  • Discourse Analysis
  • Journalism


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