Mental Illness Portrayed in the Media


Chances 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; “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”; dissociative identity disorder, formerly called a split personality disorder or multiple personality disorder.  Inaccurate portrayals 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 the result is that of our culture’s fear and ignorance towards mental illness.

This is where the stigma takes affect; the majority of people living with a mental illness are most likely to be victims of violence rather than committing the crime, based on a study in 2014.

I was a Criminal Minds fan up until a few years ago.  I noticed they included ties between the crime and a mental illness; it was in every episode and I cannot watch it anymore.

The movie “Split” which came out in theaters January 20, 2017, has a lot of controversy within the mental health community.  I have read comments on Facebook from some people who live with mental illness and still want to watch the movie because it’s that – a movie.  There are others who live with mental illness and are disgusted at how the movie shows Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) formerly known as split personality, multiple personality disorder and also frequently mislabelled as Schizophrenia.

Sometimes the stigma attached to mental illness is so strong that people are usually unwilling to seek help out of fear of what others may think.

It’s not all negative in the media.  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?

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

–  start a discussion about that movie, TV show, article you read etc. Explain how it really is living with a particular mental illness


captureAnita Levesque is a web and graphic designer, 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. The goal with my website, is to focus on personal experiences rather than articles by doctors and medical professionals who haven’t experienced mental illness.  Anita writes articles for several websites on topics such as OCD, Addictions, Suicide, PTSD and more.  She resides in Stoney Creek, Ontario and interests are photography, reading, music, learning, spending time with her family.

You can follow Anita on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.

2 thoughts on “Mental Illness Portrayed in the Media

  1. I enjoyed your post, thank you for sharing. It’s about time the stigma was removed from all mental illness and a supportive attitude generated instead so people feel encouraged to ask for help and not bottle things up inside.
    Best wishes, Rusty.

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