During the past two decades, ”Alarming reports” on young people’s mental health have frequently been published in newspapers. . These questions have gained great attention in the public debate, both in media and on the political agenda. In the 2008 Public Health government bill, it is pointed out that children and adolescents is one of the most important target groups and that mental health is one of the most prioritized areas within public health politics.
This report takes its beginning from an apparently general opinion, saying that children’s and young people’s mental health tends to deteriorate. In this report, the mediated picture of children’s and young people’s mental health over time is presented. Three operators in society are analyzed from their standpoints of children’s and adolescent’s mental health with respect to trends, socio demographic and regional differences, and also which sources are used in their argumentations. The three operators are the Government, authorities working with these questions, daily press and scientific research.
The material for the media analysis is a systematic review of articles in newspapers during the period 1988-2008 via two electronic databases. The official standpoint has been described using government documents. The material from the research area consists of peer- reviewed published articles, epidemiological studies, and so called ”grey literature”.
The result shows that the standpoint of the three different operators is remarkably consistent, but far from identical. The sources used are frequently quoted and tend to circulate among the operators. The result also shows that the groups experiencing the worst health are girls and young women. However, neither ethnicity nor regional differences are described. Also, the epidemiological data is very insufficient. As a whole, Swedish adolescent seem however experiencing a vital mental health, but stress and mental ill- health has become more frequent, especially among girls and young women. It is crucial to reflect over terms and expressions used in measurements which are being compared over a 20- year perspective. To which extent are they reflecting the same values and terms as two decades ago?
Neither the media nor the official actors can be accused of fabricating constructions, since their reports are more or less based on published research reports. Inversely, the official standpoint and the picture from media can also be assumed to be mirroring the things not being published.