Madness in the Media: News Coverage of Police Lethal Force on Persons with Mental Illness
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Police encounters with persons with mental illness have been increasing since the deinstitutionalization of the 1960s. As a result, persons with mental illness are the most vulnerable demographic to police use of lethal force. Due to the public reliance on the news media to relay information on these incidences, this project aims to answer the question: How has the Canadian print news media presented prominent cases of police lethal force on persons with mental illness to its respective audiences? To answer this question a qualitative content analysis was used to examine three cases across four daily newspapers within six months of the incident. This paper argues that the way in which the media depicts persons with mental illness for the interpretation of its audience perpetuates the discriminatory stereotypes that the media is suggesting to be exclusive to the police and the cause of their ignorance. In this way, the media’s condemnation of the police seems to be paradoxical when it is presented alongside its reinforcement of stigmatization.