Media Representations of Bipolar Disorder Through the Case of Suzy Favor Hamilton

in Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal
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Individuals suffering from mental illness face challenges that are related to stigma and lack of education that are often reinforced by the media. Specifically, the elite athletic culture is not conducive for athletes who suffer from mental illness because there is at times a belief that mental illnesses are less prevalent in elite sport. Even though incidence of mental illness in elite athletes has gained more prominence in the popular media, there is still a lack of research in this area. Specifically, there is limited research regarding media representations of athletes who suffer from mental illness. To address this gap in the literature, an ethnographic content analysis (ECA) was done to examine Suzy Favor Hamilton’s open discussion of bipolar disorder surrounding the release of her new memoir, Fast Girl: A Life Spent Running From Madness. ECA yielded one overarching theme with three supporting sub-themes. Results indicated that even though Favor Hamilton’s book worked to spread awareness, the media attention surrounding the book release represented omission of mental illness in the environment of athletics. Overall, sports culture provides an environment that is not often willing to accept that mental illnesses exist in athletes.

The authors are with San Jose State University, San Jose, CA.

Butryn (theodore.butryn@sjsu.edu) is corresponding author.
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