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

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.

Opening the Minds’ Eye: The Pivotal Role of Sympathy in Depression Coverage Effectiveness

Abstract: Depression is one of the most severe health threats to the college student population. Depression communication plays an essential role in reducing stigma and discrimination against sufferers. However, the effectiveness of such communication remains understudied, especially when it comes to the psychological process connecting depression message and communication outcomes. To tackle this challenge, this study examined whether and how depression coverage with news framing strategy and attribution approach influenced college students’ affective and cognitive response as well as their willingness to provide social support to depression sufferers. Key findings include: 1) Controlling for issue involvement, depression coverage with episodic framing and societal responsibility attribution evoked the most sympathy among participants; and 2) Sympathy toward the depressed individual and efficacy in depression identification served as sequential mediators for the effects of the depression coverage with episodic framing and societal attribution on social support willingness. These insights suggest health communication researchers and practitioners should use effective storytelling to evoke more sympathy, which then activates higher efficacy and leads to stronger social support willingness.