Date of Award

Spring 5-7-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dawn Hunter, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Margie Saucedo Curwen, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Douglas J. Swanson, Ph.D.


Individuals with disabilities make up the largest minority group in the U.S., and the language used to construct representations of these individuals has the ability to perpetuate or diminish stereotypes about these individuals. The purpose of this case study was to explore and describe the representations of mental health in online newspaper articles published by three national publications – The Washington Post, The New York Times, and USA Today. Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) was used as the methodological framework, including an analysis of semiotic choices, dominant perspectives, and causality. The case study allowed for data collection using the key terms mental health and mental illness from the three online newspapers, with a total of 33 articles published between July 1, 2018 and December 31, 2018. The findings identified that most discussions of mental health and mental illness align with a medical model frame and incorporate medicalized lexicon. Dominant perspectives of causality within articles remain with law enforcement, lawmakers, and legal advisors. Overlexicalization was evident, and the use of mental health and mental illness was more often stated with semi-formal or formal language. Findings also suggest that individuals with mental health labels are often labeled as an aggressor with specific individuals or local citizens as their victims. Potential ramifications of hidden power, as well as recommendations on altering the use of the key terms and sources used within an article are discussed.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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