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Mental Illness in the Media

You would be hard-pressed to watch the news, scroll through social media, or browse the internet without stumbling upon something related to mental health or somebody’s emotional state.

Even popular movies and songs allude to this topic. Mental health in the media is everywhere. At Banyan Mental Health, our Boca mental health PHP center is discussing the portrayal of mental health in the media, both good and bad.

How Does the Media Portray Mental Illness?

Mental illness is everywhere in the media. One study found that 70% of the general public gets information about mental health from television and 58% from the news on television.1 Traditionally, the media has done a poor job of portraying mental illness accurately. The inaccurate portrayals have led to a mental health stigma that has been hard to get away from. Although mental health in the media is often misrepresented and overdramatized, there has a been a push in more recent years for more accurate and sensitive depictions.

Misrepresentation of Mental Illness in the Media

Traditionally, little was known about mental health disorders or how to treat them. People simply marked someone off as “crazy” or that they need to go to the “looney bin.” In particular, treatment for mental illness has changed drastically over the years, but the perception surrounding these treatments are still lagging. No, our mental health treatment methods in Pompano do not include lobotomies, straightjackets, and people strapped to tables for electric shock therapy.

Some exaggerations and poor depictions of mental health in the media include:

  • Violence in the News – 55% of news stories mention violence related to mental health.1 In reality, only 18% of people with just a psychiatric disorder have committed a violent act in the last year, and this number only increases to 31% when a substance abuse disorder is also present.2
  • Exaggerated Characters – Many characters in movies or TV shows with mental health disorders are depicted in unrealistic and inaccurate ways. Just think of the exaggerated nature of Shutter Island, The Visit, and Me, Myself & Irene. While these movies may captivate viewers, they are also sending less than accurate messages about mental health.
  • Treatment Success. One study found that from 1995 to 2015, only 7% of news stories surrounding mental illness discussed successful treatment or recovery.1 In contrast to the news, the success rate for patients who enter into treatment such as a residential mental health treatment program or therapy is much higher. In reality, 85% of severely depressed people will respond positively to ECT, and 25% of schizophrenics who get treatment will experience a good recovery.

Good Examples of Mental Illness in the Media

Although a lot of media perpetuates the negative stigma surrounding mental health, not all of them do. In more recent years, mental health has become less taboo and perception on the topic has begun to change. Celebrities have begun to openly discuss their mental health disorders, and the reaction has been much more supportive than in the past. Just look at the reaction to Brittney Spears and her mental health problems from 2007 to 2019. Although still filled with drama, shows like This Is Us and The Good Doctor have focused on trying to portray mental illness more accurately, rather than just exaggerated versions.




At Banyan Mental Health, we work with people every day who struggle from real life mental health disorders. If you or a loved one is currently fighting a mental health disorder, remember that fighting alone is not the way. Call us today at 888-280-4763 to see how we may be able to help.


image credit: instagram

  1. Psychiatry & Behavioral Health Learning Network – Brain Scans Show Structural Differences in Anxiety, Depression
  2. NCBI – Trends In News Media Coverage Of Mental Illness In The United States: 1995–2014
  3. Harvard Health Publishing – Mental illness and violence
Alyssa
Alyssa
Alyssa is Banyan’s Director of Digital Marketing & Technology. After overcoming her own struggles with addiction, she began working in the treatment field in 2012. She graduated from Palm Beach State College in 2016 with additional education in Salesforce University programs. A part of the Banyan team since 2016, Alyssa brings over 5 years of experience in the addiction treatment field.

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