A study claims that the way drugs utilized to treat mental illness are marketed to doctors could be aiding in perpetuating rather than breaking down the stigma still associated with mental health troubles. Dr Juliet Foster examined around 96 different drug ads published in the British Medical Journal and the British Journal of Psychiatry.
She seems to have found out bleak disparities in the way that psychiatric and non-psychiatric drugs are promoted to health professionals. Ads for ‘physical’ diseases like pain and blood pressure medication typically display people as happy and active; either in work surroundings or having fun in their leisure time. But psychiatric drugs ads like those utilized to treat depression and Alzheimer’s disease have more chances showing troubled or inactive people.
Dr. Foster commented, “The negative images of distressed, disturbed and often deviant individuals used in advertisements for psychiatric medication contrast sharply with advertisements for non-psychiatric medication which focus on happy smiling people engaged in healthy activity, and perpetuate links between mental health problems and abnormality, fear and otherness.”
Apart from observing the pictures, Dr Foster examined the text utilized in the drug ads. She discovered that while advertisements for non-psychiatric drugs seemed to focus mainly on medically-related information on the drug itself whereas ads for psychiatric drugs encompassed less text. And even that text is concentrated on narrative description or case studies.
Dr. Foster remarked, “It is hard to argue that the general public should see mental health problems in the same light as any other health problem when it seems clear that this is not always happening in the health industry. It would be wrong to deny that health problems don’t cause suffering: people who experience mental health problems obviously do report very high levels of distress and unhappiness at their experiences. But to maintain a distinction between mental health and other health problems, and in particular to portray mental ill health more in terms of chaos, deviance, fear and otherness risks perpetuating stigma that professionals, and service users may strive so hard to dismantle in other areas.”
The differences appeared to encompass vital implications for the stigma still connected d to mental illness.
The study was published in the Journal of Mental Health.