How is Mental Illness Depicted in Film and Television

This media can reach a large audience because of the ease with which film and television are available. It’s easy to become engrossed in the story of a favorite movie or to be emotionally attached to a favorite character. However, we don’t realize the lasting impact these movies and shows have on our perceptions and thoughts. Media portrayals of sensitive topics such as mental illness often cause more harm than good. Television and film portrayals of mental illness have been shown to increase stigma around a wide range of illnesses, including schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and even schizophrenia. The stigma surrounding mental illness begins with the belief that certain mental illnesses are common (Corrigan and Kleinlein 2005). This stigma can be internalized by the person suffering from mental illness as well as the general population. Internalization can lead to discrimination by individuals and institutions against people with mental illnesses. Research in the United States found that approximately one-fifth (of prime-time TV programs) depicts some form of mental illness. Additionally, 2-3% of adult characters on these shows are shown to have mental health issues (Diefenbach 1997).

There are many movies and shows that include mental illness in minor plotlines. However, there are other films and shows which use mental illness as the main storyline such as in this Donnie Darko explanation. In the case of FX Network’s American Horror Story, Asylum is one example. This show is about a fictional institution that houses mentally ill people. Many of them are held without their consent because they face criminal charges. Despite the fact that the original season was set in 1960s America Horror Story: The show’s portrayal of mental illness can still subconsciously influence viewers’ perceptions. According to the Television Academy American Horror Story: Asylum received seventeen Emmy nominations in its single season, which highlights how common mental illness representations are in entertainment media today.

Mental illness must be accurately depicted without the dramatizations that are often used in television and film. Unrealistic stories can fuel stigma around mental illness. Research consistently shows that entertainment media presents “overwhelmingly dramatic, distorted images mental illness that emphasize danger, criminality, and unpredictability.” (Stuart 2006, para. 1). It has also been shown that the media portrays mental health professionals as “unethical or exploitative” and encourages people to distrust mental health providers and avoid psychiatric care (Stuart 2006). A scene from Showtime’s Shameless (Abbott & Dahl 2011, 2011) shows a questionable home therapy session for a character suffering from agoraphobia. Agoraphobia refers to the fear of being in unfamiliar spaces or open spaces. It is avoided by the APA Dictionary of Psychology. The scene shows Sheila receiving virtual reality therapy at home. Although her title is not known, it is assumed that the scrub-clad woman who arrives at Sheila’s home in a scrub shirt to facilitate the session is Sheila’s professional of choice to help her with her agoraphobia. The professional offers Sheila weak encouragement during the virtual reality process, while also making and drinking an alcoholic drink. Stuart (2006) describes Sheila’s unprofessional and inappropriate behavior as a result of her trusting the woman to help her with her mental illness. This is to discourage viewers to seek out treatment.

Entertainment media can also contribute to negative portrayals of mental health by including characters with mental illnesses in their reactions. This includes emotional reactions that are characterized by fear, rejection or ridicule towards a character with mental illness (Stuart 2006). Hannah meets with her school guidance counsel to talk about her depression and the worsening effects of her sexual assault. According to the guidance counselor, Hannah made a decision that placed her in a position to be attacked. The guidance counselor suggests that Hannah did not experience a lack or consent and that Hannah was experiencing a moment of regret. Hannah’s problems were dismissed by the guidance counselor. He also claimed that Hannah was at fault. This could cause people in similar situations to Hannah not to seek out help from others for fear of ridicule and rejection.

Entertainment media can portray mental illness in a positive light by allowing for the possibility of sensitivities, and not exaggerating mental illness. Research shows that most people with mental illnesses are not violent, but they are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators (Stuart 2003). Entertainment media that portrays mental illness should not be equated with violence. Ruggiero (2019) says that good media representations of mental illness display help-seeking behaviour such as reaching out and talking to a trusted adult. Charlie is a main character in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a 2012 film by Chbosky. He is being treated for depression and suicidal ideas. Charlie is able to openly talk to his psychiatrist about his feelings and thoughts leading up to his hospitalization in a powerful scene.

It is a good idea to include messages of hope, treatment, and recovery in the script. Robin Williams plays Will’s therapist in Good Will Hunting (Van Sant 1997). He establishes a relationship with Will during therapy sessions. His therapist uses previous conversations to offer advice and brings up personal experiences Will can relate to. He also points out all the things Will still has to achieve. The session ends with optimism and encouragement because Will’s therapist adapts his language to Will. Good Will Hunting is a wonderful example of a professional and positive therapist-client relationship.

How is Mental Illness Depicted in Film and Televisionultima modifica: 2022-11-17T22:31:20+01:00da ramisaseo