'The mythological marauding violent schizophrenic': using the word sketch tool to examine collocates of SCHIZOPHRENIC (n.) relating to dangerousness in the UK press

James Balfour

LAEL, Lancaster University

Schizophrenia is much more common than we think, with roughly 1 in 100 people diagnosed with schizophrenia in the U.K (Frith and Johnstone, 2003). That said, the press and other media repeatedly mischaracterise people with schizophrenia as dangerous criminals (The Schizophrenia Commission Report, 2012; Clement and Foster, 2008), despite evidence to the contrary. Indeed, statistical evidence shows that people with schizophrenia are not significantly more likely to commit violent crimes than the general population (Fazel and Grann, 2006). Instead, a study carried out in the U.S. showed that people with schizophrenia are 14 times more likely to be the victims of violent crime rather than the perpetrators of it (Brekke et al, 2001).

In this talk, I focus on some preliminary findings from a corpus of British news articles that refer to schizophrenia published between 2000 and 2015 in 9 national newspapers. In particular, I focus on lexicogrammatical patterns around the lemma SCHIZOPHRENIC (n.) using Sketch Engine's word sketch tool (Kilgarriff et al, 2014) and examine the ways in which certain patterns implicitly characterise people with schizophrenia as violent and a threat to others. In doing so, I reflect on the link between these representations and 'news values' (Galtung and Ruge, 1965; Jewkes, 2015), and assess the role they play in sustaining dominant misconceptions.

Brekke, J. S. (2001). Risks for Individuals With Schizophrenia Who Are Living in the Community. (Psychiatric Services).(Abstract). JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association, 286(23), 2922.

Fazel, S., & Grann, M. (2006). The population impact of severe mental illness on violent crime.(Author abstract). American Journal of Psychiatry, 163(8), 1397. doi:10.1176/ajp.2006.163.8.1397

Frith, C. D. and Johnstone, E. (2003). Schizophrenia: a very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jewkes, Y. (2015). Media and crime (3rd edition). London: Sage.

Kilgarriff, A., Baisa, V., Bušta, J., Jakubíček, M., Kovvář, V., Michelfeit, J., Rychlý, P., Suchomel, V. (2014). The Sketch Engine: ten years on. Lexicography, 1(7-36). http://www.sketchengine.co.uk

The Schizophrenia Commission (2012). The abandoned illness: a report from the Schizophrenia Commission. London: Rethink Mental Illness.

Week 16 2018/2019

Thursday 21st February 2019