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Media coverage of mass shootings contributes to negative attitudes towards mental illness
Date:3/20/2013

a news story describing a mass shooting by a person with a serious mental illness, a group which read a news story describing the same mass shooting that also described a proposal for gun restrictions for persons with serious mental illness, and a group which read a story describing the same mass shooting that also described a proposal to ban large-capacity magazines. Key findings included:

  • News stories describing a mass shooting perpetrated by a person with mental illness heightened negative attitudes toward persons with serious mental illness, as well as raised support for gun restriction for persons with mental illness and policies to ban large-capacity magazine. Among study respondents that read a news story describing a mass shooting, 79% supported gun policy measures with restrictions for the mentally ill, compared to 71% in the control group. Fifty-four percent of respondents who read a news story of a mass shooting thought persons with serious mental illness were likely to be dangerous, compared to 40% in the control group.

  • Including information about proposed gun restrictions for persons with serious mental illness or a ban on large-capacity magazines in a news story did not affect attitudes towards the mentally ill compared with the story describing a shooting that didn't mention a policy response.

"While our study confirms news stories on mass shootings involving a shooter with mental illness contribute to negative perceptions of mental illness, our study results indicate that discussions of gun policies designed to keep firearms from individuals who have a serious mental illness do not lead to greater stigma," said study author Daniel Webster, ScD, MPH, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. "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 fr
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Contact: Tim Parsons
tmparson@jhsph.edu
410-955-6878
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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