US/World

Mass Shooting Coverage In Media: New Study Finds Link To Negative Attitude Towards Mental Illness

Gun
Media has always been at the forefront of covering mass shootings. New study finds how it influences outlook on mentally ill. Reuters

Media has always been at the forefront of covering mass shootings from the 1982 Welding shop shooting in Miami to the Newton school massacre in December.

But until now, no study has been done to connect the media's portrayal of shootings to mental illness.

Researchers have confirmed that media's coverage of these shootings increased negative attitudes toward those struggling with serious mental illness.

"The aftermath of mass shootings is often viewed as a window of opportunity to garner support for policies to reduce gun violence, and this study finds public support for such policies increases after reading news stories about a mass shooting," said Emma McGinty, lead author and a PhD candidate at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.

"However, we also found that the public's negative attitudes toward persons with serious mental illness are exacerbated by news media accounts of mass shootings involving a shooter with mental illness." 

In addition to a negatively-heightened outlook toward the mentally ill, news stories also influenced readers to be more supportive of placing gun restrictions for those with mental illness. They also wanted to enforce a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines.

The researchers had gathered 1,797 adults from the United States and assigned them to four groups: one that had no news stories, one group that read a story about a person with mental illness who went on a shooting spree, one news story that included a mass shooting, a gunman and gun restriction proposals against mentally ill, and a news story that described the mass shooting scenario and proposed to ban large-capacity magazines.

The study released by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health was part of a larger effort from Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research to inform public about gun violence through policy analysis and research.

The National Science Foundation had conducted another study that's as long as 43 pages and found violent media and mental health both influenced aggressive behaviors in the U.S.

Since 1962, Mother Jones reported at least 62 mass shootings have taken place across the country in 30 states.  More recently however, 25 shootings have occurred since 2006, with seven taking place in 2012 alone.

"As states across the U.S. consider restrictions on gun access among those with serious mental illness, future research should examine whether such policies deter people with mental illness from seeking treatment," said Daniel Webster, co-author of the new study and director of the center.

Loading...