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Nuevas píelas para el 'puzrfe' de la esquizofrenia

Figure 11.1 Three examples of press coverage before, during and after a media campaign. "A schizophrenic patient attacks his doctor with a sword and puts him in a coma" (La Razón, January 9,1999; reproduced by permission of Jose A. Sentís, La Razón), " 'Teenagers who commit murder suffer from social pathology,' says López-Ibor" (Cádiz, Información January 27, 2001; permission applied for) and "New pieces for the schizophrenia puzzle—double personality and other mistakes" (El Pais, March 27, 2001; reproduced by permission of Gonzalo Casino Rubio)

Figure 11.1 Three examples of press coverage before, during and after a media campaign. "A schizophrenic patient attacks his doctor with a sword and puts him in a coma" (La Razón, January 9,1999; reproduced by permission of Jose A. Sentís, La Razón), " 'Teenagers who commit murder suffer from social pathology,' says López-Ibor" (Cádiz, Información January 27, 2001; permission applied for) and "New pieces for the schizophrenia puzzle—double personality and other mistakes" (El Pais, March 27, 2001; reproduced by permission of Gonzalo Casino Rubio)

vant, since some weeks before the presentation of the program to the local media, two teenagers had committed a murder in the area, generating much speculation in the media about the motivation of the murderers. Among those, mental disorders were often mentioned. At the press conference to introduce the WPA program, Prof. López-Ibor explained the difference between mental disorders and social pathologies, using this case as an example of how often people affected by schizophrenia are automatically classified as violent or potentially capable of committing acts of violence.

Obviously, linking the topic of the presentation to current events of general interest generated more attention to the program's contents. But this is also a good example of how a psychiatrist can become an authoritative and prestigious source of information. Especially when the news topic is liable to be treated in a sensational way, access to a prestigious professional who can provide an in-depth and objective angle to the information is fundamental to counteract "tabloid style'' coverage. That this piece is from a regional daily (Cádiz Información) also illustrates how these topics usually obtain a wider coverage in local or regional media. Fortunately, these are, in fact, the kinds of media to which psychiatrists may have the easiest access.

Finally, here is an example of a longer-term effect of working with media selectively. In March 2001, El Paós (the leading Spanish national daily) devoted a whole page to schizophrenia. This article was announced in the paper's front page and was the main topic of the weekly health supplement of the publication (again, a general information daily, not a specialized publication addressing health professionals). Not only was such a large space devoted to explaining the latest scientific knowledge of the causes and origins of the disorder, but also a whole column focused on "double personality and other mistakes'', reflecting one of the "Schizophrenia: Open the Doors'' campaign's key messages. Among these are the confusion of schizophrenia with multiple personality disorder, the incorrect association with a higher degree of violence, and the antisocial character of people affected by the disorder. This article even referred to the way the press deals with the subject, pointing out examples of recently misused terms.

This article was not originally derived from a press conference or an interview by the program's spokespersons, and it was published months after the campaign was launched in Madrid (where El Paós is edited). It is, indeed, a good example of how "media learn''. Strategically driven media activities do not only have an immediate effect (the information that is published immediately after the press conference, the interview or any other initiative) but also help journalists discover new topics and, basically, improve the quality of the coverage for issues arising afterwards.

In summary, it seems that the press is responsive and accessible to professional medical information about mental disorders and other mental health topics. This is confirmed by the repercussions of the media campaign developed for the program "Schizophrenia: Open the Doors" in Spain. The media are willing to improve the quality of the information they transmit and to increase the space devoted to news articles. Information elaborated with a medical basis and by an authoritative source is much better received than that apparently partial or sensational. When these factors coincide, the press coverage becomes greater and better; the news element of the information is complemented with pictures, graphs and testimonials and, without any doubt, the topic also gains in frequency of reporting.

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