guest post written by Juli Lawrence, long time Civil Rights activist and psychiatric survivor:
One of my favorite tools in social science research has always been content analysis, because it can show the media's point of view on a subject. Since the public tends to buy into whatever the mainstream media tells them, it's a good source of recognizing popular views and knowledge of a subject.
Nearly every year, parts of the US endure deadly heat waves, and the media does a good job of putting out warnings. Except in the case of psychiatric patients on psych drugs, who are at high risk, along with the senior population. The media also does a good job of reminding people that pets are at risk as well.
Most years, I send out a well-composed press release to major media, asking that they specifically mention the dangers to psychiatric patients. And to date, they have completely ignored this very real medical emergency. As has the government.
So to borrow the words of Kanye West, "Weathermen don't care about persons with psychiatric issues." (Or more bluntly, "Kent Ehrhardt and friends don't care about crazy people.")
Now to the content analysis, which does not follow the strict standards of statistical methods. It's simply a quick look into the media's warnings about the current heat wave, and who matters.
Using Google News, the term "heat wave," and searching from July 15 to July 20, 2011, 9,259 article results are returned.
Using the same date parameters and adding the term "elderly," 1,579 articles are returned. When the term "psychiatric" is put in place of "elderly," two results appear, although one is discounted because the result has two unrelated stories on the same page (the heat wave, and a story about the child murder in New York).
The only newspaper that mentions psychiatric is the Burlington (North Carolina) Times News:
"Some medications make people more susceptible to the heat-related problems. People who take diuretics or certain cholinergic and psychiatric medications will be more sensitive to issues related to dehydration."
Changing the term "psychiatric" to "mental" brings up 235 results during the same five-day period, but most of the articles used the word mental in a way other than warning mental patients to be careful in the heat. Four articles included persons with mental illness in the list of high risk populations.
If media coverage is consistent, then the reporting of the death toll in the days ahead will include absolutely no mention of the persons who died thanks to psychiatric drugs, heat and a lack of knowledge. The media's silence will continue because this population is a devalued group of human beings.
Note: Google results change regularly, so these results are not static.
I'd like to thank Juli giving me permission to post this important article.
More information on neuroleptic drugs risk for inducing heatstroke:
first posted 7-21-2011