Disappearing Acts: Anguish, Isolation, and the Re-imagining of the Mentally Ill in Global Psychopharmaceutical Advertising (1953–2005)
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The visualization of mental illness has attracted substantial attention from scholars in recent decades. Due to the invisible nature of mental disorders, this work has stressed the importance of representations in shaping perceptions of mental illness. In the second half of the 20th century, advertisements for psychopharmaceutical medications became important avenues through which mental illness was made visible. This article analyzes how drug advertisements portrayed mentally ill individuals in medical journal advertisements from 14 countries between 1953 and 2005. We argue that a shift in representations occurred in the 1980s: whereas earlier campaigns were dominated by images of the mentally ill suffering in isolation, the post-1980s period was marked by a trend toward "positive" imagery, social inclusion, and ordinariness. This shift re-imagines the role of psychopharmaceuticals and who might be understood as mentally ill, reflecting changes in global marketing and the arrival of the "happiness turn" within the pharmaceutical industry.
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