Media portrayal of depression after the German wings
Introduction March 24, 2015, plane crash received global media coverage with the concerns of a limitation regarding the management of stigma associated with mental illness. The basic assumption is that the media coverage on the attitudes linked with mental health has greatly impacted the public perception. Also, the alleged murder-suicide by the co-pilot that resulted in the death of 150 individual, all passengers and crew members, was associated with a long period of depression. The association is viewed to elevate anger, fear and the need for social distance from individuals perceived to suffer from mental issues.
BackgroundGoulden et al. (2011) explain that in the past few years, several attempts have been made to decrease the stigma associated with mental illness. The associated notion is that the media plays a significant role in spreading the stigma. The ideology is that the media is highly implicated when it comes to the stigmatizing opinions that the public has against individuals suffering from mental issues. The stigma subjected to the individuals is described as stereotypical negative ideologies and behaviour that individuals with mental illness experience from the public (Link 2001, 363). The stereotypical opinions held by the public is that such people are unpredictable, strange, incurable and dangerous. According to Goulden et al. (2011), “The extensive literature on media coverage of mental illness points to its frequent use of such ideas.” Most of the studies regarding the media and its impact on stigmatization illustrate that there exists a correlation or rather a causal relationship between the prejudicial perspectives and attitudes and negative media coverage (Dietrich et al. 2006, pg. 318). To comprehensively understand the relationship, the analysis focuses on the media coverage of the Germanwings plane crash and the public response concerning individuals with mental health issues particularly because of the co-pilot responsible for the tragic incidence suffered from severe depression.
Statement of the Problem
It is perceived that in the United Kingdom, there have been significant efforts employed over the past two decades on challenging the misunderstanding and stigma projected to people with mental health issues (Pescosolido et al. 2008, pg. 432). Some of the popular campaigns as highlighted by Goulden et al. (2011) include ‘Defeat Depression’ that ran from 1992 to 1997 and ‘Changing Minds’ that began in 1998 and functioned till 2003. The focus of the campaigns was to influence the media for it to have a lenient approach when covering tragic news linked to people with mental problems. Be that as it may, despite the campaigns, longitudinal analyses reported no changes or improvement in the negative perception held by the public (Goulden et al. 2011). However, a study by Rüsch et al. (2005, pg, 529) indicates that the level of stigma varies depending on the mental disability. Individuals with schizophrenia and other forms of psychotic problems experience immense stigmatization when compared to those suffering from depression and anxiety (Angermeyer & Matschinger, 2003, pg. 527). Overton and Medina (2008, pg. 143) align with the view that individuals suffering mental illness tend to be the most stigmatized and discriminated. The false and negative connotations affiliated with mental issues are viewed as harmful similarly to the mental illnesses. The impact of the stigmatization is that it limits the available opportunities regarding social development for people with mental issues (Overton & Medina 2008, pg. 143).
Media portrayal of depression after the German wings
Pugh et al. (2015, pg. 1) highlight structural stigmatization which is viewed as the injustices and inequalities present in social organizations which limit the freedom and interaction of a particular population. Structural stigmatization which is associated with mental illnesses is viewed as the most recognized barrier regarding the welfare of individuals with mental issues. The associated viewpoint is that people suffering from mental issues experience discrimination throughout their lives including areas such as housing, and job opportunities. It is perceived that the discrimination mostly occurs from an interpersonal perspective rather than structural. Pugh et al. (2015, pg.1) state, “Structural stigma may contribute to or interact with interpersonal stigma, as well as operate independently of interpersonal stigma. The media coverage of cases affiliated with individuals with mental issues can be viewed as structural whereby through the stigmatizing perspectives; they enable interpersonal stigma when the public receives the news and hence resulting in stereotypic views.
In brief, Andreas Lubitz, who was the co-pilot of the Germanwings aircraft, was alleged to have locked himself in the cockpit with the intention of destroying the entire plane (Griffin 2015, pg.1). According to the prosecutor from France, the act of plane crash was a sign of terrorism which was purposeful. According to the study by Sternberg et al. (2018, pg. 100), the Bureau d’Enquetes et analyses reports showed that he was not fit to fly because he regularly forgot what he was doing. The director of the aircraft company outlined that the recommendations from the report talked about the weaknesses that the security which was in place had. The security did not respond promptly to the suggestion that had been made regarding the protection of the cockpit against being accessed from the cabin (Stieglitz et al. 2017, pp. 5). However, the security defended itself that the matter of committing suicide could not be prevented on certain grounds. Tension and arguments arose between the company’s management and the security regarding the responsibility of who was to take control of the pilot’s health status. The initial medical reports demonstrated that Lubitz had suffered from a thorough depression dilemma without exhibiting any signs. The media insisted that on August in the year 2008, Lubitz had tempted to commit suicide on several occasions (Schomerus et al. 362). After seven years, Lubitz was directed to psychotherapists to get further attention after he had been dragonized with the anxiety discomforts. On the ninth of March in the year 2015, a different medical practitioner asked Lubitz to take a certificate of sick leave so that he could get sufficient rest at home. Although the doctor gave out a nineteen-day sick rest certificate, it did not reach the Germanwings department. Therefore, the inadequate personal health information in the Germanwings firm did not give the company a clear outline regarding the health status of this co-pilot (Schomerus et al. 362). However, despite the efforts which were made by the media as well as the company on the Lubitz’s family, there was not an appropriate answer that was given because the family practiced their right of not engaging in the interview.
From a general perspective, the media portrayal of depression after the Germanwings demonstrated that Lubitz was still undertaking the medication for the mental stress. Furthermore, the families who were the victims of the circumstance went in the Court of law to sue the United States school that offered pilot knowledge and skill at Arizona for not carrying out proper screening on some individuals (Sue et al. 2015, pg. 40). According to media sources, the case was filed in the District Court of the United States of America at Phoenix. The laws of those who were victims of the strategic scenario claimed that the co-pilot set the plane to encounter a collision at the Alps Mountain by intentional thoughts. Andreas Lubitz was referred to as the suicidal time bomb as a result of his inhuman act. The Daily Mirror covered headlines such as Killer Pilot suffered from Depression. The Sun, as well as the Daily Mail, had disheartening headlines which depicted sorrow to the entire World. Different people understood the information in a different angle basing on how the media had transmitted it. Lufthansa had confirmed that at the time Lubitz was training at Arizona, there had been a brief interruption in his training due to mental illness which destabilized him (Torjesen 2015, pg. 1874). This was six years before the worst happened. The craft specialists stated that the type of the interruption Lubitz encountered at the training school was not common. The situation indicated that something fishy was taking place.
On the Daily Mail, the story was not much different from the other papers. The difference was seen in the language which was used to deliver the information. The mail referee to the pilot as a “madman” the paper had several questions as to whether individuals who have mental disease can be allowed to take flights (Whitley et al. 2017, pg. 279). The paper did not see a reality between the historical depression and the tragic event which had just occurred. According to the paper, this was just but an awkward scenario was meant to be imagined rather than taking it as a fact. Apart from the information regarding the air crash spreading quickly over the papers, Facebook and Twitter also played a major role in highlighting on whatever had happened by the mischievous pilot. The twitter handle outlined that Lubitz did not respond to several calls which were made from the civilians as well as the military that controlled the aircraft (Murphy 2016, pg.19). Furthermore, communications were made from the personnel of other planes but Lubitz gave them a deaf ear. There were also many signals which came from the door and the calls from cabin. Patrick Sondheimer, a plane worker, requested Lubitz to open the emergency exit but all was in vain. From the report which was found out, Lubitz was alone at the Barcelona’s controls to start the flight thirty minutes after nine o’clock but he took off earlier. This act of defiance demonstrated some defiance in the job. Additionally, the media stated that the pilot lacked accountability while he was accomplishing his duty. A study carried out by Schomerus et al. (2015, pg. 362) showed that the plan crash immensely affected the attitudes that people have on individuals with mental issues regarding the media.
Research RationaleStudies done on the media reporting criminal activities perpetrated by individuals with mental issues indicate that the reports may result in the development of negative attitudes against individuals perceived as mentally unstable (Knesebeck et al. 2015, pg. 263). From the population studies carried out in Germany between 1990 and 1991 regarding violent attacks to subject to politicians by individuals who were mentally unstable shows an increase in the level of stigmatization after the incidences (Knesebeck et al. 2015, pg. 263). A study carried by McGinty et al. (2013, pg. 494) in the U.S. showed that news reports regarding mass shootings elevated the public’s negative attitudes towards individuals with mental issues. The same case applies to films and articles that associate criminal activities with mental illness whereby individuals also develop a negative attitude towards people with mental issues after viewing them. Knesebeck et al. (2015, pg. 263) explain that the intense and wide coverage of the Germanwings plane crash by the media, put much focus on the mental health of the pilot. The scholars state, “Reporting was accused of being unfair, speculative and generalized and it was expected that the reporting would have a negative impact on depression stigma,” (Knesebeck et al. 2015, pg. 263). The basic assumption is that media coverage may negatively affect the attitudes of the public on people with mental health issues (Knesebeck et al. 2015, pg. 263). Therefore, it becomes important to focus the study on whether March 24, 2015, plane crash influenced the stigma beliefs subjected to individuals with mental illness as per the illustration by the media.
Research Objectives, Research Scope & QuestionsThe main objective of the paper is to determine whether March 24, 2015, plane crash influenced the stigma beliefs subjected to individuals with mental illness. More specifically, it will analyze the reports presented by five top newspapers in the United Kingdom and the public’s perception at the time of the event. The focus will be on the media and its coverage of the Germanwings plane crash regarding the perception subjected to people with mental health issues. Therefore, the research questions that the paper focuses on include;
How did each newspaper report the incident?
How did each newspaper approach the presumed mental condition of the pilot?
How did each newspaper connect the incidence with issues regarding mental health?
Does the information in the newspapers exhibit the capacity to influence the attitude of the audience regarding individuals with mental health?
What is the basic assumption highlighted by each newspaper?
Did March 24, 2015, plane crash influence the stigma beliefs subjected to individuals with mental illness in the U.K. as per the depiction of the issue by the media?
How does the public perceive individuals with mental illness?
Definition of termsThe significant terms associated with the study include stigma, media, and mental illness. Stigma can be described as an act of disgrace subjected to an individual due to a certain quality or trait. It involves being discriminated and even feared because of a particular perspective. Mental illness is a broad term as it is associated with various forms of mental cases. Nonetheless, it puts into view either biological, behavioural or psychological dysfunction in either behaviour. The media, on the other hand, refers to any platform used to convey information to the public. Some of the common platforms include social media sites, television, radio, magazines, and newspapers. With that the media involved in the analysis involves newspapers.
ProcedureThe procedure will involve performing content analysis on a sample of 5 top UK newspaper and conduct a literature review of studies related to the issue of focus. The newspapers were selected on the fact that they are the top national newspapers as per the 2017 statistical analysis. They include:
1. Daily Telegraph.
2. The Observer.
3. The Sunday Mirror.
4. The Sunday Express.
5. The Daily Star Sunday.
The content analysis will involve forty reports as illustrated by the five newspapers such that a deeper understanding of the impact of the media when it comes to stigma subjected to individuals with mental issues. The idea is to analyse their presentation of the relationship between mental capacity and the instigation of a crime concerning the Germanwings plane crash. Some of the questions to consider in the content analysis include; how did the newspaper report the incidence? How did the newspaper approach the presumed mental condition of the pilot? How did the newspaper connect the incidence with issues regarding mental health? Does the information in the newspaper exhibit the capacity to influence the attitude of the audience regarding individuals with mental health? What is the basic assumption highlighted by the newspaper? The literature review will focus on the concept of stigma regarding how various scholars have addressed the stigma projected to individuals with mental issues not necessarily focusing on the place crash but also other incidents committed by individuals presumed to exhibit mental issues. The incidences will range from mass shootings, homicides, suicides and so forth. The idea is to comprehend the factors that influence the public to develop negative attitudes towards the individual with mental issues during tragic events.
Significance and Limitations of the StudyThe significance of the study is that it broadens the scope affiliated with the view that media coverage may negatively affect the attitudes of the public on people with mental health issues. As mentioned earlier, the main objective of the paper is to determine whether March 24, 2015, plane crash influenced the stigma beliefs subjected to individuals with mental illness. The limitation of the study is that it only includes information from the five newspapers and limits itself to the literature review regarding comprehending scholarly studies affiliated to the research topic. It may also be difficult to assess the bias present in the newspapers regarding the incident as most newspapers tend to include aspects that appeal to the audience. Be that as it may, the focus of the paper is to comprehend the relationship between media coverage and the stigma experienced by people perceived to suffer from mental issues during tragic events. Dissertation OutlineTo answer the research questions, the paper will abide by the following structure: Chapter (2) will include the content analysis and literature review on the related studies regarding the portrayal of the media of depression after the German Wings. The chapter will also include the study’s hypothesis which will be experimented on in chapter 3. The chapter will also include how data was obtained in addition to the research methodology. Chapter 4 will entail a comprehensive analysis of the results of the analysis in addition to discussing the findings. Chapters 5 and chapter 6 will include practical effects and the basic conclusion.
Chapter SummaryThe chapter sets the foundation for the entire study whereby it includes the introduction, background and overview of the incident. It defines the significant terms and indicates the rationale for the study and the associated procedures. It also highlights the research questions, the significance of the study in addition to laying out the paper’s outline.
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Whitley, Rob, and JiaWei Wang, 2017, ‘Good news? A longitudinal analysis of newspaper portrayals of mental illness in Canada 2005 to 2015,’ The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry vol. 62, no. 4, pp. 278-285.
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