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Kimberly In The Media

Mental Illness Portrayed in the Media

thumbnail_24715Chances are the majority of knowledge of mental health comes from the media. Researchers have suggested that most portrayals in the media are stereotypical, negative and incorrect. Stigma towards mental health has been in the media as far back as the 1800’s, with a prime example of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” depicting Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), which was formerly called split personality disorder or multiple personality disorder. An inaccurate portrayal of people with mental illness has created negative stereotypes in all types of media (internet, television, and print material such as magazines and newspapers).

In most cases, the psycho killers, crazy girlfriends/boyfriends, stalkers and criminals all have some kind of mental illness, according to Hollywood. All too often, this results in a culture of fear and ignorance towards mental illness resulting in stigma. Contrary to popular belief, studies have shown that the majority of people living with a mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence, rather than being the perpetrators of the violence. However, popular TV shows like “Criminal Minds” that depict crimes being committed by people with mental illness only help reinforce this stereotype and continues to create a universal fear. Sometimes the stigma attached to mental illness is so strong that people are unwilling to seek help out of fear of what others may think.

The current movie “Split,” which came out in theatres on January 20, 2017, has a lot of controversy within the mental health community. I have read comments on Facebook from people who live with mental illness and still want to watch the movie because it’s just that – a movie. There are others who live with mental illness and are disgusted at how the movie presents DID, formerly known as split or multiple personality disorder, and is also frequently mislabeled as Schizophrenia. My boyfriend and I went to see “Split” and we didn’t find the movie as bad as it was made out to be. I felt that it did portray how someone with DID functions and what can happen. I liked how the psychiatrist in the movie defined DID by explaining how the brain works and how the personalities co-exist. Overall, I thought the movie was well done and that the trailers made it look worse than what it actually was.

It’s important to keep in mind that portrayals of mental illness in the media are only an issue when they falsely portray the illness by using negative stereotypes that affect those living with a mental illness. Here is a partial list of movies that honestly depict mental illness in their true form:

1. Rain Man (1988)-Autism
2.What About Bob (1991)-Anxiety
3. As Good As it Gets (1997)-OCD
4. A Beautiful Mind (2001)-Schizophrenia
5. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)-Bipolar
6. Inside Out (2015)-General mental health
7. Benny & Joon (1993)-Schizophrenia

What can we do to help end this stigma in the media?

1. We can call or write to the publisher or editor of the newspaper, magazine, book, or radio and TV station and help them realize how their publication has affected those people with a mental illness.

2. Start a discussion about that movie, TV show, or article that you read. Explain to people what it’s really like living with a particular mental illness and highlight the discrepancies found in the media.

3. KEEP TALKING & KEEP LISTENING

By: Anita Levesque

Anita is a mental health advocate with lived experience through loved ones; father – bipolar; brother – PTSD, depression, anxiety; mother – PTSD; boyfriend – clinical depression, severe OCD, GAD, personality disorders. Her goal is to focus on personal experiences with mental illness.

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About Anita Levesque

Anita is a mental health advocate with lived experience through loved ones; father - bipolar; brother - PTSD, depression, anxiety; mother - PTSD; boyfriend - clinical depression, severe OCD, GAD, personality disorders. Her goal is to focus on personal experiences with mental illness.


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