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Media portrayal of Finnish athletes' mental health: A qualitative study of how Finnish news websites portray Finnish elite athletes with mental health problems
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Informatics and Media, Media and Communication Studies. (Kandidatuppsats)
2018 (English)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Background: Since athletes are often perceived as unbreakable, their mental health problems might be bypassed or denigrated by their coach, peers or even by the media. However, athletes are as, if not more, susceptible to mental health problems as anyone else. As the media continues to be the primary source of information, the way in which the media portrays mental health problems can affect how people perceive and regard them. In this research, I examined how Finnish elite athletes with mental health problems are portrayed in the Finnish news websites by qualitatively analyzing eight articles of four Finnish athletes, two former and two current. Furthermore, I compared the articles with one another in order to study the eventual differences between each article’s portrayal of the athletes’ mental health problems. Method: This analysis was conducted by applying a narrative discourse schema to the selected eight articles, which enabled me to examine both the structures of the articles as well as the underlying discourses and social context. Results: Nearly all of the articles are framed from the athlete’s point of view in terms of including more citations from the athlete than comments from the journalist. Furthermore, none of the articles regarded mental health problems among athletes in general, but rather portrayed each case as a single incident. Male athletes with a depressive disorder were complimented far more compared to female athletes. Moreover, female athletes eating disorder and anxiety were often associated with appearance and pressure regarding their sports career. Conclusion: The way in which athletes with mental health problems are portrayed in the Finnish news websites can be interpreted in two ways. Firstly, they can be perceived as hopeful recovery stories from the athletes perspective, as they portray how successful athletes can also develop mental health problems and still continue their career. Secondly, by not addressing the problem as a whole nor including any factual information in any of the articles indicates the journalists lack knowledge and/or apathy about the issue, and that it is a difficult subject to portray acceptably.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018. , p. 47
Keywords [en]
mental health problems, elite athletes, media representation, framing, narrative analysis
National Category
Media and Communications
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-340999OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-340999DiVA, id: diva2:1180465
Subject / course
Media and Communication Studies
Supervisors
Examiners
Available from: 2018-02-09 Created: 2018-02-05 Last updated: 2018-02-09Bibliographically approved

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Citation style
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