Individualizing Mental Health Responsibilities on Sina Weibo: A Content Analysis of Depression Framing by Media Organizations and Mental Health Institutions.

Journal of Communication in Healthcare: Strategies, Media and Engagement in Global Health.

Abstract: Depression is a major threat to public health in China. Although many social determinants have been recognized as robust predictors of health outcomes, depression is still widely viewed and framed as a personal health issue that the affected individual is primarily responsible for when it comes to causes and solutions. Research shows that individualizing mental health responsibilities is directly related to stigma formation. While cross-cultural theory and prior research suggest the prevalence of contextual and societal attributions in China, the individualization of the Chinese culture in recent decades may alter the pattern of responsibility attributions for depression. How top Chinese media organizations and mental health institutions framed causal and problem-solving responsibilities for depression on Sina Weibo, a popular social networking site, were quantitatively content-analyzed by examining a total of 539 Weibo posts in terms of their featuring of personal and societal causes and solutions for depression. Both media organizations and mental health institutions primarily assigned depression responsibilities to the individual (vs. the society). State-controlled media organizations were more inclined to hold individuals responsible for fixing the problem than market-oriented media organizations. Compared to media organizations, mental health institutions paid less attention to depression causal responsibilities at both individual and societal levels. Findings support a multi-vocal and balanced framing approach that integrates individual- and society-level attributions of causal and problem-solving responsibilities for depression, so as to help alleviate stigmas, identify structural remedies, and enhance efficacy in depression prevention and treatment at individual, community, and population levels.

Yan Jin 

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