Mental Illness In The Media Essay Topic

This essay won 2nd Place in our 2015 Essay Contest and was written by Hosana Tagomori, a high school student in Bangkok, Thailand. 

More often than not, the media portrays characters with mental illness as incomprehensible, tortured, and convoluted. However, the entertainment value often gets in the way of an accurate portrayal. It is either the sinister homeless man lingering in the street shadows, or the ludicrous strange friend whose life is a complete cluttered mess. Patients are mostly perceived as “dangerous” or “insane”, due to the inaccurate portrayals in media, where the character is almost always hopeless, deranged, and dangerous. It is quite easy to subconsciously absorb these misconceptions, especially when the over- exaggerated behaviors reoccur. Unfortunately, people are still quick to stereotype and assign labels. People should be aware of the impacts this may have on those who are suffering from the disorder and are in need of help.

Woefully inaccurate pictures of bipolar disorders in media can have an immense impact on the public. For example, in the television series Homeland, the bipolar character always seems to be the popeyed, insane mess who is constantly going ballistic, ranting, drinking, and screaming. As sufferers from the illness are perceived in a negative light by the public eye, they often fear being discriminated against, leading to avoidance of seeking treatment. In addition, although the movie Silver Linings Playbook takes on a more subtle approach, it portrays bipolar disorder incorrectly by diminishing the significance for people to seek treatment. The film ends on a cheerful note, with a big embrace between the two protagonists. However, the movie suggests that in the end, all you need is love, without any medication to overcome the illness. In reality it isn’t as simple and isn’t going to cure bipolar disorder any more than it’s going to cure heart disease. 

Almost all media tends to portray people with mental illness as violent. Studies have shown that crime is the most common theme of stories of mental illness. In a recent article, 11-year-old Tara started being ostracized by her friends when she admitted she had bipolar disorder. Nevertheless, research suggests that mentally ill people are more likely to be victims of violence, rather than perpetrators. People must come to realize that other variables play a role with aggression and that it does not necessarily define who the person is.

When it comes to the public, most believe that people with bipolar disorder are unpredictable and pose risks on society. Our views had been shaped by media to believe that these individuals might go “berserk” and attack someone out of the blue. Contrary to these beliefs, the vast majority of these people are ordinary, individuals who have decent jobs. 

People have been inundated with all sorts of false images of bipolar disorder that the media illustrates. Moreover, many misconceptions are derived from this. It is vital to seek ongoing treatment or else symptoms would be devastating. People must come to realize that although bipolar disorder is very real, it is also completely manageable and can be treated. It is critical to dispel stereotypes and reach out to raise awareness. 

Essay on Media Portrayal of Mental Illness in America

3893 Words16 Pages

Media Portrayal of Mental Illness in America

The media in American society has a major influential impact on the minds and beliefs of millions of people. Whether through the news, television shows, or film, the media acts as a huge database for knowledge and instruction. It is both an auditory and visual database that can press images and ideas into people's minds. Even if the individual has no prior exposure or knowledge to something, the media can project into people's minds and leave a lasting impression. Though obviously people are aware of what they are listening to or watching, thoughts and assumptions can drift into their minds without even realizing it. These thoughts that drift in are extremely influential. The massive impact…show more content…

The mentally ill were cared for at home by their families until the state recognized that it was a problem that was not going to go away. In response, the state built asylums. These asylums were horrendous; people were chained in basements and treated with cruelty. Though it was the asylums that were to blame for the inhumane treatment of the patients, it was perceived that the mentally ill were untamed crazy beasts that needed to be isolated and dealt with accordingly. In the opinion of the average citizen, the mentally ill only had themselves to blame (Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health, 1999). Unfortunately, that view has haunted society and left a lasting impression on the minds of Americans. In the era of "moral treatment", that view was repetitively attempted to be altered. Asylums became "mental hospitals" in hope of driving away the stigma yet nothing really changed. They still were built for the untreatable chronic patients and due to the extensive stay and seemingly failed treatments of many of the patients, the rest of the society believed that once you went away, you were gone for good. Then the era of "mental hygiene" began late in the nineteenth century. This combined new concepts of public health, scientific medicine, and social awareness. Yet despite these advancements, another change had to be made. The era was called "community mental health" and

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