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Psychiatric Briefs

Primary Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry 2000;2:145-149

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Although much research has documented both the effects of television viewing on children and the ways mental illness is depicted in the media, no published study had investigated the portrayal of mental illness in television programs aimed at children. The authors sought to determine if and how mental illness is presented in children’s television by sampling 1 week’s offering of television programs targeted at children aged 10 years and younger (57 hours, 50 minutes; 128 episodes comprising 69 cartoon animations, 12 noncartoon animations, and 47 liveaction shows). Television episodes were viewed repeatedly, first to identify references to mental illness and then to discern and analyze linguistic, semiotic, and rhetorical patterns in the references. Nearly half of the episodes (59/128; 46%) contained at least one reference to mental illness, and cartoon episodes were significantly more likely than other episode types to include such references (c2 = 17.1, df = 2, p < .05). “Crazy” (28 occurrences),​