Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been negatively framed in many articles and do not reflect the epidemiology of the disorder, said researchers.
PTSD is a mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying event -- either experiencing it or witnessing it.
According to the team from Drexel University in the US, both the public and policy-makers often get their ideas from the media and when those ideas are formed about something as serious and impactful as PTSD, it's important for the media to tell the story in the right way.
‘Drexel University researchers found that several articles had portrayed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) negatively, leading to misconceptions among the public.’
"Mass media shape public awareness about mental health issues and affect mental illness problem recognition, management and treatment-seeking by providing information about risk factors, symptoms, coping strategies, and treatment options," explained Jonathan Purtle, assistant professor in Drexel's Dornsife School of Public Health.
With that in mind, Drexel researchers examined how The New York Times portrayed PTSD from the year it was first added to the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (1980) to present day (2015).
Between this period, 871 news articles mentioned PTSD.
In the paper appeared in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry
, Purtle and co-authors Katherine Lynn and Marshal Malik, pointed out specific issues in the NYT's coverage that could have negative consequences.
The team found that 50.6 percent of the articles focused on military cases of PTSD, including 63.5 percent of the articles published in the last 10 years.
In actuality, Purtle's past research showed that most PTSD cases are related to noncombat traumas in civilians. The number of civilians affected by PTSD is 13 times larger than the number of military personnel affected by the disorder.
Purtle and his researchers found that 16.6 percent of the articles were about court cases in which the defendant potentially had PTSD, while 11.5 percent of other articles talked about substance abuse.
These negative themes could create misconceptions that people who have PTSD are dangerous and discourage employers from hiring prospective employees with the disorder, Purtle pointed out.
"Most themes in the New York Times PTSD articles pertained to proximal causes and consequences of the disorder," the authors noted.
Most articles focused on the traumatic exposure that led to PTSD as well as the symptoms that result from the disorder. They rarely told stories of survivors and prevention.
"This narrow focus could inhibit awareness about PTSD resilience and recovery and constrain discourse about the social determinants of traumatic stress, which is needed to garner political support for policy interventions," the Drexel team wrote.
Broadening the discourse on PTSD can lead to better outcomes," they added.