Mental Health and the Media

It’s no secret there are a lot of … less-than-helpful depictions of mental health in the media. We have stereotyped behaviours, negative (and untrue) stories, and more. You might say, ‘Well hey, it’s just a movie/book/show etc.’ But these kinds of depictions can be incredibly hurtful, stigmatising and even dangerous. 

Let’s pause for a minute. Look at a lot of horror and thriller movies. How many show an antagonist, or villain, as having some form of mental illness? Schizophrenia, bipolar and dissociative identity disorder (DID), and even PTSD are the main contenders. But why? People with these conditions aren’t inherently dangerous. Having these conditions doesn’t make someone violent. So, why do people use these stigmatised conditions in the media? 

Unfortunately, when people don’t understand something, we think of it as scary or dangerous. The aforementioned conditions, as well as many others, have only recently been shown in a positive light through advocates such as Michelle Hammer, Gabe Howard, SchizoKitzo, Kody Green, Amber and Co, and more. These people, as well as many others, are breaking the stigma to educate people about their conditions. To my knowledge, there haven’t been any positive or accurate depictions in the media of these conditions (yet) but I’m hopeful this will change with the changes that we’re seeing. 

Similarly, conditions such as OCD are portrayed as quirky, and eating disorders are also shown in a very stereotypical way that can be a dangerous representation. In some ways, we’ve seen some better portrayals, such as in Heartstopper, but these are very few and far between. 

Good representation is so important. It helps people to better understand what they might not, it helps to open conversations, it helps to reduce stigma, and, most importantly, it reminds people they aren’t alone in their struggles. Those like who I’ve mentioned are actively creating a shift in the dialogue around their conditions. They are showing that they aren’t scary, that they have added barriers and challenges, but that doesn’t make them ‘less than.’ 

If you’re someone who has experienced prejudice or judgement because of a diagnosis, please know it’s not a reflection on you. You are beautiful as you are and there are people out there who won’t judge you or think of you any differently.

At the end of the day, just be kind. Be kind and educate yourself. For those struggling, I’m sorry there aren’t better representations, and I’m sorry that you’ve probably felt negative towards your condition as a result. But remember that it’s a problem with how it’s been depicted in the media, YOU are not the problem. 


Voices of Hope wants you to know that you do not have to do this alone. Click here to 'find help' - it's not weak to speak!

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