The Depiction of Electroconvulsive Therapy in the British Press

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Background and Objectives:

It has been suggested that electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) tends to be described in negative terms by some sections of the media. The aim of this survey was to examine the depiction of ECT in the British press.


The word "ECT" and other related terms were entered into the Web site search facility of every British national newspaper.


The search returned 348 articles. Only 11% depicted ECT in a positive light, whereas 32% were negative. Among the negative articles, discourse analysis revealed 2 main semantic domains: "cruelty" and "ECT as a tool for repression."


Depictions of ECT in the British press tend to be either neutral or negative. Negative depictions of ECT may contribute to the stigma of mental illness, by marginalizing this treatment and therefore those severely ill patients who receive it.

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