Mental health issues and the media

Media portrayal of mental illness and its treatments: what effect does it have on people with mental illness?


. 2006;20(2):99-106.

doi: 10.2165/00023210-200620020-00002.

Heather Stuart  1



  • 1 Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, Abramsky Hall, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. [email protected]
  • PMID: 16478286
  • DOI: 10.2165/00023210-200620020-00002


Heather Stuart. CNS Drugs. 2006.

. 2006;20(2):99-106.

doi: 10.2165/00023210-200620020-00002.


Heather Stuart  1


  • 1 Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, Abramsky Hall, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. [email protected]
  • PMID: 16478286
  • DOI: 10.2165/00023210-200620020-00002


This article reviews dominant media portrayals of mental illness, the mentally ill and mental health interventions, and examines what social, emotional and treatment-related effects these may have. Studies consistently show that both entertainment and news media provide overwhelmingly dramatic and distorted images of mental illness that emphasise dangerousness, criminality and unpredictability. They also model negative reactions to the mentally ill, including fear, rejection, derision and ridicule. The consequences of negative media images for people who have a mental illness are profound. They impair self-esteem, help-seeking behaviours, medication adherence and overall recovery. Mental health advocates blame the media for promoting stigma and discrimination toward people with a mental illness. However, the media may also be an important ally in challenging public prejudices, initiating public debate, and projecting positive, human interest stories about people who live with mental illness. Media lobbying and press liaison should take on a central role for mental health professionals, not only as a way of speaking out for patients who may not be able to speak out for themselves, but as a means of improving public education and awareness. Also, given the consistency of research findings in this field, it may now be time to shift attention away from further cataloguing of media representations of mental illness to the more challenging prospect of how to use the media to improve the life chances and recovery possibilities for the one in four people living with mental disorders.

Similar articles

  • [Dangerous states and mental health disorders: perceptions and reality].

    Tassone-Monchicourt C, Daumerie N, Caria A, Benradia I, Roelandt JL. Tassone-Monchicourt C, et al. Encephale. 2010;36(3 Suppl):21-5. doi: 10.1016/S0013-7006(10)70014-2. Encephale. 2010. PMID: 20813221 French.

  • Media and mental illness: relevance to India.

    Padhy SK, Khatana S, Sarkar S. Padhy SK, et al. J Postgrad Med. 2014 Apr-Jun;60(2):163-70. J Postgrad Med. 2014. PMID: 24823515 Review.

  • [Stigmatizing of persons with a mental illness].

    Vendsborg P, Nordentoft M, Lindhardt A. Vendsborg P, et al. Ugeskr Laeger. 2011 Apr 18;173(16-17):1194-8. Ugeskr Laeger. 2011. PMID: 21501561 Review. Danish.

  • Stigmatization, social distance and exclusion because of mental illness: the individual with mental illness as a 'stranger'.

    Baumann AE. Baumann AE. Int Rev Psychiatry. 2007 Apr;19(2):131-5. doi: 10.1080/09540260701278739. Int Rev Psychiatry. 2007. PMID: 17464791 Review.

  • Stigmatization of Mentally Ill Patients through Media.

    Babić D, Babić R, Vasilj I, Avdibegović E. Babić D, et al. Psychiatr Danub. 2017 Dec;29(Suppl 5):885-889. Psychiatr Danub. 2017. PMID: 29283984

See all similar articles

Cited by

  • A retrospective study exploring how South African newspapers framed Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders over an 11-year period (2004-2014).

    Masinga N, Nyamaruze P, Akintola O. Masinga N, et al. BMC Psychiatry. 2022 Oct 28;22(1):667. doi: 10.1186/s12888-022-04276-5. BMC Psychiatry. 2022. PMID: 36307766 Free PMC article.

  • Teaching Media Literacy to Psychiatry Residents in Iran.

    Taghva A, Atashi A, Zardar Z, Hajebi A, Khademi M. Taghva A, et al. Med J Islam Repub Iran. 2022 Jul 6;36:75. doi: 10.47176/mjiri.36.75. eCollection 2022. Med J Islam Repub Iran. 2022. PMID: 36128305 Free PMC article.

  • Effectiveness of Mental Health Warnings on Tobacco Packaging in People With and Without Common Mental Health Conditions: An Online Randomised Experiment.

    Sawyer K, Burke C, Ng RLY, Freeman TP, Adams S, Taylor G. Sawyer K, et al. Front Psychiatry. 2022 Jul 14;13:869158. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2022.869158. eCollection 2022. Front Psychiatry. 2022. PMID: 35911223 Free PMC article.

  • Places of safety? Fear and violence in acute mental health facilities: A large qualitative study of staff and service user perspectives.

    Jenkin G, Quigg S, Paap H, Cooney E, Peterson D, Every-Palmer S. Jenkin G, et al. PLoS One. 2022 May 4;17(5):e0266935. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0266935. eCollection 2022. PLoS One. 2022. PMID: 35507544 Free PMC article.

  • The effect of classroom lectures and a movie recommendation on pharmacy students' attitudes and social distancing toward people with schizophrenia.

    Aluh DO, Amorha KC, Anthony-Awi TA. Aluh DO, et al. Ment Health Clin. 2022 Jan 21;12(1):23-31. doi: 10.9740/mhc.2022.01.023. eCollection 2022 Jan. Ment Health Clin. 2022. PMID: 35116209 Free PMC article.

See all "Cited by" articles


    1. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 1999 Aug;33(4):583-9 - PubMed
    1. J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 2003 Jun;10 (3):297-306 - PubMed
    1. Can J Psychiatry. 2003 Nov;48(10):651-6 - PubMed
    1. Can J Psychiatry. 2003 Nov;48(10):657-62 - PubMed
    1. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2002 Oct;36(5):697-700 - PubMed

Publication types

MeSH terms

Here’s How Social Media Affects Your Mental Health

The social media platform Instagram made headlines last year for suppressing likes in an effort to curb the comparisons and hurt feelings associated with attaching popularity to sharing content. But do these efforts combat mental health issues, or are they simply applying a band-aid to a wound?

It’s a small step in the right direction, says Jacqueline Sperling, PhD, a psychologist at McLean Hospital who works with youth who experience anxiety disorders, about Instagram’s recent restriction.

“Even if you remove the likes, there continue to be opportunities for comparisons and feedback. People still can compare themselves to others, and people still can post comments.”

Keep Reading To Learn

  • Why we keep going back to social media
  • The impact of social media on our mental health
  • Tips for healthy social media use in adults and teens

The Risks for the Reward

Social media has a reinforcing nature. Using it activates the brain’s reward center by releasing dopamine, a “feel-good chemical” linked to pleasurable activities such as sex, food, and social interaction. The platforms are designed to be addictive and are associated with anxiety, depression, and even physical ailments.

According to the Pew Research Center, 69% of adults and 81% of teens in the U.S. use social media. This puts a large amount of the population at an increased risk of feeling anxious, depressed, or ill over their social media use.

But what makes users come back for more even when it can literally make them feel sick?

“When the outcome is unpredictable, the behavior is more likely to repeat. Think of a slot machine: if game players knew they never were going to get money by playing the game, then they never would play,” Sperling says.

“The idea of a potential future reward keeps the machines in use. The same goes for social media sites. One does not know how many likes a picture will get, who will ‘like’ the picture, and when the picture will receive likes. The unknown outcome and the possibility of a desired outcome can keep users engaged with the sites.”

Is It Time To Power Down?

Are you spending too much time on your devices? Is your social media feed stressing you out? Learn how to spot the signs of screen fatigue and digital burnout.

Fight Digital Burnout

To boost self-esteem and feel a sense of belonging in their social circles, people post content with the hope of receiving positive feedback. Couple that content with the structure of potential future reward, and you get a recipe for constantly checking platforms.

When reviewing others’ social activity, people tend to make comparisons such as, “Did I get as many likes as someone else?,” or “Why didn’t this person like my post, but this other person did?” They’re searching for validation on the internet that serves as a replacement for meaningful connection they might otherwise make in real life.

FOMO—fear of missing out—also plays a role. If everyone else is using social media sites, and if someone doesn’t join in, there’s concern that they’ll miss jokes, connections, or invitations.

Missing experiences can create anxiety and depression. When people look online and see they’re excluded from an activity, it can affect thoughts and feelings, and can affect them physically.

A 2018 British study tied social media use to decreased, disrupted, and delayed sleep, which is associated with depression, memory loss, and poor academic performance. Social media use can affect users’ physical health even more directly.

Researchers know the connection between the mind and the gut can turn anxiety and depression into nausea, headaches, muscle tension, and tremors.

Mental Health Screening

Online screening is one of the quickest and easiest ways to determine your psychological well-being.

Online Screening

The Digital Age of Vulnerability

The earlier teens start using social media, the greater impact the platforms have on mental health. This is especially true for females.

While teen males tend to express aggression physically, females do so relationally by excluding others and sharing hurtful comments. Social media increases the opportunity for such harmful interactions.

Sperling offers the example of a seventh grader whose best friend chooses a new best friend and posts pictures of the pair at the movies or on a weekend trip.

“Twenty years ago, the girl may have been excluded from her best friend’s activities, but she may not have known about it unless she was told explicitly,” Sperling says.

In addition to providing young people with a window through which they can view missed experiences, social media puts a distorted lens on appearances and reality. Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat increase the likelihood of seeing unrealistic, filtered photos at a time when teen bodies are changing.

In the past, teens read magazines that contained altered photos of models. Now, these images are one thumb-scroll away at any given time. Apps that provide the user with airbrushing, teeth whitening, and more filters are easy to find and easier to use. It’s not only celebrities who look perfect—it’s everyone.

When there’s a filter applied to the digital world, it can be hard for teens to tell what’s real and what isn’t, which comes at a difficult time for them physically and emotionally.

“Middle school already is challenging for students with all of their developmental changes. As they go through puberty, they’re tasked with establishing their identity at a time when the frontal lobes in their brains are not fully developed, and there is a lack of impulse control. All of this happens while their relationships with peers become more important,” Sperling says.

“It’s a very vulnerable population to have access to something where there is no stopgap before they post or press the send button. I think that’s something of which to be mindful.”

Adults are vulnerable, too. In recent years, plastic surgeons have seen an uptick in requests from patients who want to look like their filtered Snapchat and Instagram photos.

A New York Times article that ran in June 2018 features a newlywed couple who nearly separated after their honeymoon. The reason: the wife spent more time on the trip planning and posting selfies than she spent with her husband.

Watch Now!

Dr. Lisa Coyne talks to us about the connections between social media and mental health

How Can the Platforms Change?

Sperling acknowledges social platforms have positive aspects, such as their ability to allow people to stay in touch with family and friends around the world.

She realizes the potential pitfalls of completely banning teens from sites that have become a part of life for their generation—not just as a way for them to stay on top of recent parties and conversations but often as an expected source of announcements and news.

Still, she says, the platforms have opened a “Pandora’s box” as they continue to evolve more quickly than we can research their impact.

“I think we need to take a step back and look at the role technology is playing in our society as a whole, in terms of people needing instant gratification, staying home and not interacting in the community by going to local stores or to the movie theater,” she says.

“Even dating apps can decrease motivation for single adults to approach others in the community if they think they just can connect with them on an app first.”

In addition to limiting likes, as Instagram has done, Sperling suggests social platforms consider decreasing mass sharing altogether. They might function more as messaging services by highlighting one-on-one communications.

Regardless of how likely social media giants are to change their ways, though, individuals can take control of their own behavior.

Suicide: Know the Signs

The best way to prevent suicide is to talk about it and get help.

Read the Article

Distract Yourself From the Distraction

People aren’t usually motivated to change their social media use by simply hearing it’s bad for them. It’s better for individuals to see what their limits are. It’s probably unrealistic for most social media users to quit completely.

However, they can monitor their behavior to see how their use impacts them, and how to act as a result.

Michelle knows this all too well. When she was initially treated for anxiety, her therapist asked her if she was active on social media, and she said yes. “It turns out that a lot of my anxiety and impostor syndrome is made worse when I’m online.”

A person experiences impostor syndrome when feeling chronic self-doubt and a sense of being exposed as ‘a fraud’ in terms of success and intellect.

“Whether it’s another pretty vacation or someone’s bouquet of flowers, my mind went from ‘Why not me?’ to ‘I don’t deserve those things, and I don’t know why,’ and it made me feel awful.

She and her therapist decided to set ground rules. “If I was to continue using social media, I had to learn what would trigger my anxiety and how using different platforms made me feel,” says Michelle.

The result was her deleting Snapchat for good, and after 5 years, she still doesn’t miss it. She’s still active on several other platforms, though.

Sperling encourages people to conduct their own behavior experiments by rating their emotions on a scale of 0-10, with 10 being the most intensely one could experience an emotion, before and after using social media sites at the same time each day for a week.

If one notices that one feels less happy after using them, then one might consider changing how one uses social media sites, such as using them for less time and doing other activities that one enjoys instead.

Self-Care Is Important

McLean develops free and reliable mental health resources for the public and professionals to promote healthy individuals and communities.

Sign Up Now!

A 2018 University of Pennsylvania study suggests that such self-monitoring can change one’s perception of social media.

The study’s researchers looked at 143 undergraduates randomly assigned to two groups. The first set was asked to limit Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat to ten minutes per platform per day, while the second was asked to continue to use their social media as usual for three weeks.

The limited group showed significant reductions in loneliness and depression during those three weeks over the group that continued using social media.

Both groups showed significant decreases in anxiety and fear of missing out compared to where they were at the study’s beginning.

“I’d love to say that my use is totally healthy, but I find that I’m still comparing myself to others,” Michelle says.

“Now I can recognize what’s going to help or hurt my mental well-being. My therapist and I agreed that I’d set limits on my app usage to two hours a day across all platforms. Now I know when it’s time to log off and take care of myself.”

Set a Good Example

Parents can develop a plan of how much time family members will spend on devices. Strategies like these teach kids healthy media use and good sleep hygiene.

When teens start using social media, parents can ask them to turn in their phones at night with the understanding that parents can review posts and messages. This helps parents be in the know, as sometimes young people will share struggles online while parents have no idea.

Monitoring also encourages teens to remember that everything they share online is a permanent fingerprint. If they don’t want their parents to see it, then it shouldn’t be posted.

Sperling suggests that some families modify the ways they use social media. Try a “no selfie” policy or a rule that kids can post pictures of tangible objects but no photos of themselves. This way, children can share their experiences without emphasizing a focus on their appearance.

A common argument is when children say they are missing out because of restrictions placed on their phone use—that they aren’t allowed on a platform or can’t be online after a certain time.

“Parents’ frequency of electronics use can set the tone for what is permissible to their children. If you want your children to put their phones down at dinner, that will be more likely to happen if you do the same.”
– Dr. Jacqueline Sperling

Sperling tells parents to remind kids that a good friend would find a way to spend time with them. She suggests other ways for kids to talk to one another to keep those feelings of FOMO away and be socially present.

“If adolescents know that they cannot use their phone after a certain time or are not allowed to access a site that their friends use, then they can ask their friends to let them know of any plans made when they see each other at school or call the house phone or one of the parent’s phones so that they can remain included.

Of course, Sperling says, the way parents are using social media is the model for their kids.

A University of Texas review of research on parents’ use of mobile devices while interacting with their children found that mobile use contributed to distracted parenting, an increase of bids for attention when the parents were distracted, and conflicts with other caregivers.

“Parents’ frequency of electronics use can set the tone for what is permissible to their children,” Sperling says.

“If you want your children to put their phones down at dinner, that will be more likely to happen if you do the same.”


  • Anxiety
  • Mood Disorders
  • Jacqueline Sperling

The mental health of the nation directly depends on the work of the media



Nadezhda Azhgikhina Vice-President of the EFJ in 2013-2019

Sergey Enikolopov, Head of the Department of Medical Psychology of the Scientific Center for Mental Health, answers the questions of the JOURNALIST anxiety, hostility and a tendency to conspiracy theories against the backdrop of forced isolation and a pandemic. What are we doing in the new year? What can be said about the state of our society, what to expect?

- Everything that happened last year continues, all problems remain. With one small additive that no one has yet explored: what hope does vaccination give us? Here we can immediately distinguish several groups. One is covid dissidents, a rather complicated configuration. Another group are people who want confirmed data on the effectiveness of vaccination. Moreover, the world media create grounds for some doubts. The EU does not approve Sputnik, someone thinks that other vaccines are better - Pfizer, Moderna. Why Sputnik is worse, there are also no sufficient explanations. They say that it was announced when not all stages of testing had passed, but questions also arise here. Is there not only a political, but also a commercial component here? All companies in this field are fantastically rich. Everyone is sure that his vaccine is better. But the very fact that the choice is limited, especially in our country, does not give confidence. I understand well people who have doubts. This group will rely heavily on media publications. By no means cheers-reports. For the most part, we do not really trust the media, both in good and bad. If only because the majority of the population was brought up on the fact that if the media say, they say, everything is for harvesting, then there is a suspicion that there will be no harvest. Information about the vaccine was presented in the most irresponsible way. At first it was reported that only young people were vaccinated. Then suddenly, without any explanation, they said that now those who are “65 plus” can be vaccinated. You understand that the 65 plus group is the most vulnerable. And the people of this group, and this is a group of Soviet education, accustomed to treat reports of victories with distrust, begin to suspect the worst. Not in the sense that they die immediately. But, as it happens with us, there is a rush, a “counter plan”, early implementation ... We were brought up that way. Another thing is covid dissidents. This group exists by its own laws. She is younger. As our studies have shown, against the background of the epidemic, their form of protection is denial of the problem.

In parallel, our study showed that people begin to take the epidemic seriously only when sick people appear in their city, and especially among their acquaintances. You never know what they say in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but in our city everything is different ... In fact, defense mechanisms at an unconscious level develop a variety of strategies. One is total denial. The second is all sorts of conspiracy theories. Everything that happens is designed to manipulate us. Chip and zombie. Introduce quarantine measures, then to do whatever they want with us. And since many people live in social networks, a peculiar effect arises there - the bell effect. That is, people are selected who say what I think is right and share my views. Why the hell should I listen and read unfriendly people? But in the end it turns out that I only read the echo of my own thoughts and doubts and once again I am convinced that they are correct. After all, everyone supports me! And here the criticality of assessments begins to be lost. Against the backdrop of stress, in which we have generally been from the very beginning of the epidemic, criticality is falling, magical, esoteric, conspiracy thinking is increasing.

- So social networks fool people much more than regular media?

- There was a funny experiment when active users of social networks were asked a question: scientists reported that Viagra was found in the traces of jet planes. Do they believe it? Many answered that yes, they do. A creepy thing in general. During the coronavirus, they began to pay attention to this feature of the perception of information in networks. There are rules here. On the one hand, social networks are a kind of activity, it’s good that people in the period of forced isolation are generally active. On the other hand, they read a huge amount of nonsense that no one has verified. One doctor said something. One patient shared. No filter. One more aspect. It is normal to remove your anxieties and fears by writing some text, this is very developed in psychotherapy. But this disturbing text is posted online, creates anxiety among readers, they also write their own texts, and anxiety begins to generalize, it becomes gigantic. And just like denial, this spreading anxiety takes its toll on the mental state of users.

- But, you must admit, we have been living in a stream of chaotic and disturbing information for a long time, the Internet regularly scares and shocks us for more than a year.

- Previously, there were some fiducial points. I won't believe until I get some kind of official confirmation, reliable information. And today - what is official information? The credibility of the media has been destroyed. You can list publications you believe in, and someone else will name a different list. And it turns out that they do not intersect. As a result, in one place you can read that a certain famous person fell ill with covid or even died, in another he gives an interview and is more alive than all the living. Who to believe? There are no authorities. This is a feature of the end times.

- But not only here, this is probably a global trend.

- I think we still have more. All over the world there are some names that, perhaps, not always deservedly, but are supported in the media as some serious authorities.


The Americans, it is true, note that the role of experts in general is declining. Politicians do not listen to them or listen to them every other time. But still there are authorities. US chief virologist Anthony Fauci appears in the media as an icon and a target for criticism, but he is an obvious authority that is supported by most Western media. And we can't name a single name. Gunzburg is not a hyped authority. There are no words in the media that Gunzburg is an outstanding scientist. We are told that he is the director of the institute and is promoting his vaccine. What did he do before this? What did you do in science all the years? Why did you lead the institute? That is, there is no evidence base. Creating a halo around an expert is a serious and complex problem. But if there is no halo, what trust? And so it is in all areas. When Likhachev and Lotman existed, to a certain extent they were authorities in their field. And now neither in the moral, nor in any other area they are not. All are equal. What difference does it make whether the patriarch said it or someone else. For any other country, the authority of the pope may or may not be recognized, but it exists. And when there are no authorities, there are no reference points for determining what is right and what is not.

- Again, we were moving towards this...

- It's like with any disease. There are small sores, a person does not pay attention to them. And suddenly a serious illness comes - and it turns out that it is necessary to treat these seemingly minor problems. Small drops. My favorite joke is about drops. The man asks how much is a drop of water worth? - Nothing. - Grab a glass.

In a stressful situation, all the sores begin to appear. In many ways, the problem, in my opinion, lies in the media. They showed the story - and they think that they are great, not understanding why no one is listening to them. The fact is that the same inhabitants are in power and for them the media is no longer an authority. And journalists are not an authority. And those, according to the old Soviet habit, think that they are something. The old hierarchy of values ​​does not work. Problems have piled up. Drop by drop. We don't hear ourselves. The frustration is growing. Journalists do not understand that when they “drown” a colleague, this widens the gap and rebounds on everyone.

— Did the 1996 media wars set off a loss of trust?

— In 1996, we understood well: you buy the newspaper Zavtra, or Nezavisimaya, or Obschaya, and you see the difference, and if everyone has read them, a panorama appears. Then a huge number of publications appeared, blogs, they blurred the boundaries, and you don’t understand: this one is right, left, or which one. Shades are invisible to the eye. The only thing that appears as a "bell effect": people began to trust only "their" media. Someone in the old fashioned way believes only the BBC, someone - the First Channel. Your circle. Listeners of "Echo of Moscow" do not listen to "Radio Russia", and vice versa. And the media people themselves, when they call some propagandists and others liberals, do not understand that they are destroying trust. No effort is being made to restore trust on either side

— How does this affect the psyche, the personality?

- She starts to lose coasts, coordinates. Values ​​are blurred. Moral ones included. One philosopher called his book Moral Roadlessness. If earlier there were ruts - religious, communist, any, now they are not obvious. Suddenly a situation arises when there are many morals. And the feeling that a person is in an open field. Off-road.

— The Church claims moral authority.

— We had an atheistic state for 70 years. Then suddenly there is a gigantic influx of people into the church, not necessarily elderly people. Lots of youth. They do not live according to the church, then they get married, then they are debunked. Their real practice is completely far from church dogmas. 100 years ago, a person could not do something if he got married. He knew that he would be condemned. Today this is not the case.

- Students do not understand Anna Karenina.

- This is completely incomprehensible today. The students and I discussed suicide. The first thing they say: what's the problem? Is she crazy? It's easier to understand that she's crazy. Or maybe she's depressed. That's how everything falls into place. But the meaning that the author put in is not felt at all. Because it's not about them. It is also difficult to address the characters, their experience. Why didn't he betray his comrades to the enemies? Answer: he had a stupor. Nobody says that a hero is ready to die for an idea. It's about patriotic education.

- Well, here we have a wealth of creative manifestations, films, cartoons even about our glorious heroes ...

- I watch cartoons, I have granddaughters. I must say that Smeshariki achieves a greater effect in moral education than obsessively patriotic films, talking about what is good and what is bad, with humor and unobtrusively. When Danelia was filming "Mimino", no one thought that it was about the friendship of peoples. And the effect is just about the friendship of peoples. Hooray-patriotic tapes are like in the USSR, "Danish" films and performances, to the dates. This is very serious, because people who immediately begin to respond to the call to “make about braces” do not understand that they are similar to their ancestors, behave in the same way and will not achieve the effect. And those who don't think about it and just make good films are laying the foundations for the braces.

- Have we become more aggressive lately? We hear about the growth of domestic violence, about attacks on those who make remarks in transport, even murders because of posts on social networks ...

- It is growing, of course, it cannot but grow. Most importantly, there is a concept of hostility in our field, which no longer refers to actions, but to cognitive issues, to the perception of the picture of the world. It is expressed not in scuffle, but in how a person sees the world. Hostility is growing. “All bastards. Everything is against me".

- Ring of enemies? Besieged fortress?

- We often interpret the ring of enemies as in the old days - these are "warmongers". Today, the "warmongers" are sitting in the next room. This is reinforced by the fact that any predetermined person is declared a "bastard". People see more threats in the environment than there are. It's like walking into a room and seeing that any object can be used as a piercing weapon. Fork, knife, screwdriver.


I return to the information - this is how it can be perceived. Any. And I defend myself against it, no matter what you suggest. All sorts of aggressive breakdowns arise on this basis. A scuffle begins due to wearing a mask, violating social distance. Have you ever paid attention to how far the other person is from you? And now, for many, approaching is already a danger. And most importantly, the understanding of the context begins to be violated. There is a pat on the shoulder. When we get patted, we can tell when it's dangerous, when it's friendly. And under stress, painful perception sees any movement as hostile, everything is perceived in a negative way.

— Forced isolation has affected the nature of communication, the interaction has become largely virtual. But psychologists say that tactility, physical contact, is the basis of interaction. What is changing in us? How long?

— Socialization always happens in real time. Any girl, growing up, goes through a number of stages: the boys pull the pigtails, knock the briefcase out of their hands, slap on the back, then below the back, and the girl understands when this is a sign of admiration, and when it is necessary to punch her in the face. Until recently, the main socialization took place in the yards, where the younger ones learned from the older ones, where a vertical relationship was built, where the younger one could be put in the gate, and everyone knew that they were fighting to the first blood, that they didn’t beat the lying down. The younger one sees how the older ones take care of the girls. If there is no yard, these rules that do not beat a lying person, fight to the first blood, are not clear, it is not always clear what is good and what is bad. Many forms of social control over one's behavior disappear. The loss of households exacerbated the problem of deviant behavior. Socialization also takes place at school, but more often horizontally, they usually communicate with peers, high school and high school are different worlds. And that's the problem. My granddaughters were eager to go to school, not because they are strongly drawn to knowledge, but because they have friends there. And studies have shown that only 30 percent of employees are ready to work remotely, most want to return to the real situation. Virtual reality blurs the boundaries. A person finds himself in an initially hostile world. This new hostility greatly distorts the worldview. Hence the conspiracy theories.

- How can this be overcome?

— This is a serious task for scientific psychology. Aggressive actions are emotional, their important component is anger. There are ways to overcome anger. In the US, a family rapist is sent to an anger control course. The driver, a malicious traffic offender, too. But hostility is difficult. This is a separate task that should be dealt with more actively. But so far, in our country, as in the West, even among specialists in aggression, this problem is on the periphery.

— After the epidemic, will people learn to value communication more?

- One group will definitely value communication and friendships more. The second group, most likely, will not trust others, will remain hostile, and it will be numerous. The context will be lost. And the role of social networks in this is great. The fact is that Facebook, Instagram primitivize speech. And real life requires subtle, empathic perception. The society will be divided into two large groups, some will perceive relations with a sharper eye, cherish them. Others will perceive the relationship as a burden, negative and meet everything with hostility. And this is for a long time.

— You are a media person, you have been communicating with journalists for many years. What annoys you the most about our colleagues?

- Lack of responsibility for one's word. The feeling that people have received a sword, but do not understand what to do with it. A sharp object can be a life-saving scalpel. But it can also be the other way around. Lack of understanding of what can hurt. Scare. This was especially acute during the terrorist attacks, in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In my opinion, it would be necessary to introduce into journalistic ethics the provision from the medical one - “do no harm”.

- It actually exists. In all ethical codes of the world, including Russian.

- Maybe there is, but it would be necessary that it was not formal, but entered into flesh and blood. Now this is not. Justified by the fact that shocking material draws attention to an acute problem. And the fact that he scared everyone is secondary. And hostility is growing.


No one gave a vaccine against it to journalists, he sees and feels the same as the layman. Can he reflect, understand what is the main thing in him - bubbling internal psychological discontent or a real need to tell the truth so as not to injure anyone?

— There are many people among journalists who actually suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

— At one time, I often met with combatants and journalists covering them. Both of them do not like psychologists. But the military more easily agreed to talk, on condition of anonymity, and discuss their problems. I was struck by the powerful resistance of journalists, as if I wanted to take away the most secret from them. By the way, those who have worked through their traumatic experience well are good journalists. Babayan, Sladkov - none of them shied away from me. A lot of others behaved on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Didn't make contact. Then I heard that some of them drank themselves, some tried to commit suicide, some disappeared altogether.

— Do journalists need basic psychological knowledge?

— It is important to imagine at least some basics of your own mental hygiene. You can't be a "fan" when you comment on a football match. It is better if someone who understands football comments on it. And here a man wrote about agriculture, milk yield, there was a terrorist attack nearby, he was the first on the spot and comments on the events, but he has no skill, and he winds up horror and panic. Knowing the basics of psychology is important for two reasons. First, it is important to know how to achieve a greater effect, to understand which text is better perceived. The Lasswell Propaganda Laws have not been repealed. This is the technological aspect. The second aspect is connected with the solution of one's internal problems, with understanding oneself. Why does this story attract me? What do I want to say? Do I want to express myself, command, or do I want to participate in the general movement for the better?

— You work for the Public Collegium for Press Complaints. Do you believe that the board and similar institutions are able to harmonize our media environment? Society as a whole?

— Our society simply does not know about the board, unfortunately. And the media community itself is not very well informed that some kind of “forest orderly” has appeared.

Unfortunately, many board meetings coincide with my meetings at work, but I have a very sincere attitude towards her and highly appreciate her role. It seems to me that the very fact of its existence should be promoted more strongly in two components. In the professional community, of course. But the whole society should know where to complain. Not only when one journalist complains about another, it happens. But understand the phasing of complaints and the importance of ethical assessment.

Most of those who applied to the collegium do not go to court after its decisions. From the little experience that I have, I learned that the mere fact of ignoring the discussion by some players already creates a reputation. It would be nice if society knew this. Now no one is afraid of the collegium. But there is a chance. As proof, I will give an example from another area - this is the Society of American Grandmothers. They set up at their own expense a monitoring center for TV channels, including cable ones, and at the end of the year report which channel has the highest level of violence and aggression. And TV channels are mortally afraid of this verdict, because their advertising funding immediately drops. Because grandmothers are the main consumers. They don't buy rockets, Mercedes, weapons, but they buy a lot of things. And thus a certain regulator appeared. This is an idealistic view, but one must strive for the good.

— What would you like to wish our colleagues in 2021?

- Since last March, since we were put into isolation, my favorite quote is Carlson's words: calm, only calm! In general, I would like more optimism and common sense.


Report an error

Subscribe to the magazine

Subscribe to newsletter

  • У
  • Ф
  • Х
  • Ц
  • Ч
  • Ш
  • Щ
  • Ъ
  • Ы
  • Ь
  • Э
  • Ю
  • Я
    • Popular Topics
      • Air pollution
      • Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
      • Hepatitis
    • Data and statistics »
      • News bulletin
      • The facts are clear
      • Publications
      • L
      • E
      • Y
      • I
      • WHO in countries »
        • Reporting
      • Regions »
        • Africa
        • America
        • Southeast Asia
        • Europe
        • Eastern Mediterranean
        • Western Pacific
      • Media Center
        • Press releases
        • Statements
        • Media messages
        • Comments
        • Reporting
        • Online Q&A
        • Developments
        • Photo reports
        • Questions and answers
      • Latest information
      • Emergencies "
      • News "
        • Disease Outbreak News
      • WHO data »
      • Dashboards »
        • COVID-19 Monitoring Dashboard
      • Basic moments "
      • About WHO »
        • CEO
        • About WHO
        • WHO activities
        • Where does WHO work?
      • Governing Bodies »
        • World Health Assembly
        • Executive committee
      • Main page/
      • Media Center/
      • Newsletters/
      • Read more/
      • Strengthening mental health measures

      Key Facts

      • There are affordable, effective and feasible strategies to promote, protect and restore mental health.
      • The need for mental health action is clear and urgent.
      • Mental health is essential both in and of itself and as an integral part of a person's overall health and well-being.
      • Mental health results from the influence and interaction of a complex of individual, social and structural stressors and vulnerabilities.

      Understanding mental health

      Mental health is a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with stressful situations in life, fulfill their potential, study and work successfully, and contribute to society. It is an essential component of health and well-being that underpins our individual and collective abilities to make decisions, build relationships, and shape the world we live in. Mental health is one of the basic human rights. In addition, it is crucial for personal, social and socio-economic development.

      Mental health is not limited to the absence of mental disorders. It represents a continuous continuum, individual for each person, within which a person faces a complex of factors of varying degrees of complexity and experiences different levels of stress, which leads to very different potential social and clinical consequences for each individual.

      Mental health disorders is an umbrella term for mental disorders, various types of psychosocial disabilities, and other mental health conditions associated with significant distress, functional impairment, or risk of self-harm. As a general rule, people with mental health problems are more likely to experience lower levels of mental well-being, although exceptions are possible.

      Determinants of mental health

      Throughout our lives, multiple individual, social and structural determinants can collectively protect or undermine our mental health and change our position on the mental health continuum.

      Various individual psychological and biological factors, such as emotional skills, substance use, and genetic characteristics, can make a person more susceptible to mental health problems.

      Exposure to adverse social, economic, geopolitical and environmental circumstances, including poverty, violence, inequality and disadvantaged social conditions, also increases the risk of mental disorders.

      Risk factors can appear at all stages of life, but those that arise during the most important periods for human development, especially in early childhood, have a particularly strong negative impact. For example, harsh parenting and physical punishment are known to undermine children's mental health, and school bullying is a major risk factor for developing mental health problems.

      Similarly, protective factors also occur throughout a person's life and contribute to mental resilience. These factors include our individual social and emotional skills and attributes, as well as positive social experiences, quality education, decent jobs, living in a safe neighborhood, community cohesion, and more.

      The impact of risk and protective factors can vary in magnitude. Thus, local threats increase the risk to individuals, families and communities. Global threats such as economic recession, disease outbreaks, humanitarian emergencies, forced population displacements, and the worsening climate crisis are raising the level of risk for entire populations.

      The impact of any individual risk or protective factor is difficult to predict. In most people, exposure to any risk factor does not lead to the development of a psychiatric disorder, while many people can develop psychiatric disorders even in the absence of known risk factors. However, the complex of different interacting determinants of mental health can both enhance and undermine mental health.

      Mental health promotion and prevention of mental disorders

      Mental health promotion and prevention interventions are based on identifying the individual, social and structural determinants of mental health and implementing interventions to reduce risks, increase mental resilience and create a mental health-friendly environment. Interventions may be directed at individuals, specific populations or entire populations.

      Reshaping the determinants of mental health often requires action that goes beyond the health sector, so mental health promotion and prevention programs need to reach into the education, labour, justice, transport, environment, housing and social welfare sectors. The health sector can make a significant contribution to this by integrating mental health promotion and prevention into health care services, and by promoting, initiating and, where appropriate, supporting intersectoral collaboration and coordination.

      Suicide prevention is one of the global priorities included in the Sustainable Development Goals. Greater strides in suicide prevention can be made by limiting access to the means of committing suicide, responsible media coverage of such cases, teaching adolescents social and emotional skills, and taking early action. A particularly inexpensive and cost-effective intervention to reduce suicide rates is the ban on highly hazardous pesticides.

      Promoting the mental health of children and adolescents is another priority that can be achieved through policies and legislation that promote and protect mental health and aim to support parents and caregivers in caring for their children in a caring and respectful way. implementation of appropriate school-based programs and creation of favorable and safe conditions for children at the level of local communities and in the online space. School-based social and emotional learning programs are among the most effective mental health promotion strategies in countries of all income levels.

      There is growing interest in the promotion and protection of mental health in the workplace; relevant measures can also be taken in this area in the areas of legislation and regulation, organizational strategies, training of managers and implementation of interventions at the worker level.

      Mental health care and treatment

      In the context of national efforts to promote mental health, it is essential not only to protect and promote the mental well-being of the entire population, but also to address the needs of people with mental disorders.

      This should be addressed through community-based mental health care, as it is more accessible and acceptable to the population than inpatient care, helps prevent human rights violations, and improves outcomes for mental disorders. Community-based mental health care should be built into a set of related services:

      • mental health services integrated into the general health care system, usually operating at the general hospital level and as part of a shared task with the participation of non-specialized primary care workers;
      • community mental health services, which may include community mental health centers and teams, psychosocial rehabilitation services, support groups and visitor services;
      • Services providing mental health services in social care and non-medical settings such as child protection services, school health services and prison facilities.

      The huge gap in care for common mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety requires countries to look for innovative ways to diversify and scale up care for these conditions, such as through non-specialized counseling or self-help using digital platforms.

      WHO activities

      All WHO Member States have committed to the Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013–2030, which aims to improve the mental health of the population by strengthening effective leadership and management, providing a comprehensive, integrated and community-based flexible care, the implementation of strategies for mental health promotion and prevention of mental disorders, and the development of information systems, evidence and research. According to the analysis of country performance in implementing the action plan presented in the 2020 Mental Health Atlas published by WHO in 2020, progress towards the goals of the agreed action plan remains insufficient.

      The World Mental Health Report, published by WHO, calls on all countries to accelerate the implementation of the action plan. The report argues that all countries can make significant progress in improving the mental health of the population by taking action in three main areas of transformation:

      • increasing the value of mental health in the minds of individuals, society as a whole and government; in line with the realization of this value, ensuring the necessary commitment, interaction and investment from all stakeholders and in all sectors;
      • transforming the physical, social and economic environments – at home, in schools, in the workplace and in the wider community – to better protect mental health and prevent mental disorders;
      • Strengthening the mental health system so that the full range of mental health needs are met through a network of accessible, affordable and quality community-based services and supports.

      WHO focuses on protecting and fulfilling human rights, empowering people to share their personal experiences, and ensuring a multisectoral and multistakeholder approach.

      Learn more