Fact or Fiction: What Mental Illness Looks Like Outside of Mainstream Media

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12 May Fact or Fiction: What Mental Illness Looks Like Outside of Mainstream Media

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If we don’t have personal experiences with mental illness, how do we understand it? Media plays a significant role in shaping how we perceive mental health, and unfortunately, it can sometimes leave us with inaccurate pictures. In fact, TV shows and movies’ portrayal of mental illness can sometimes be exaggerated or surreal. How do we know what’s fact and what’s fiction?

Fact or Fiction: Mental Illness Outside Mainstream Media

By Alyse Kotyk

  • Fiction: People With Mental Illnesses Are All Violent

    By Alyse Kotyk

    Violence is a common theme in movies nowadays. Many individuals with mental illnesses are portrayed as being dangerous criminals, which can truly stigmatize a person who is struggling with this diagnosis. For example, the Hitchcock film _Psycho_ famously depicted a homicidal character who suffered from mental illness. In reality, however, people living with mental illness are actually more likely to be the [victims of violence](http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2013.301680) than the perpetrators of violence.

  • Fact: People With Mental Illnesses Need Support From Loved Ones

    By Alyse Kotyk

    Some media like the 2012 film _Silver Linings Playbook_ portray a positive depiction of mental illness. The support and camaraderie that the protagonist, who spent time in a mental institution, receives from his loved ones demonstrates just how important a role friends and family play in the lives of those with mental health issues. In fact, many treatment programs even contain an element that require family engagement such as family therapy. In other words, if you know someone living with a mental health condition, ask how you can help support them.

  • Fiction: People with Mental Illnesses are Society's Outcasts

    By Alyse Kotyk

    Many depictions of those living with mental illnesses—especially when addiction is portrayed—show individuals as outcasts of society. They're often homeless, or don't quite fit in (as seen in the 2000 comedy, _Me, Myself & Irene_). This portrayal is harmful because it doesn't address the very real fact that mental illness actually affects [nearly 10 million adults in America](https://www.nami.org/NAMI/media/NAMI-Media/Infographics/GeneralMHFacts.pdf). Therefore, if you know someone who has a mental illness, you can help them avoid feelings of isolation by getting them any professional support they might need.

  • Fact: People With Mental Illness Can Still Function in Society

    By Jesmine Cham

    Many people with mental health issues can still be [high-functioning participants in society](http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1056&context=dflsc) without letting their conditions hinder them. Some media, like the TV show _Homeland_, has created a fairly accurate portrayal; _Homeland_'s lead character suffers from bi-polar disorder but she continues to be successful in her job. If you know someone with a mental affliction, treat them as you would any other person in your life.

  • Fiction: People With Mental Illnesses Don't Need Treatment

    By Alyse Kotyk

    While some shows have tried to incorporate mental illness into their plot lines, these can sometimes fall short of what a realistic experience with mental illness is like. For example, in the 2003 movie _Thirteen_, substance abuse and an eating disorder are portrayed, but the movie never shows the protagonist receiving treatment. Instead, these struggles are just seen as a "phase" and possibly even as a trendy problem to have. In reality, mental illness is not a temporary condition. For those living with a mental health condition, it's extremely beneficial to seek [professional assistance](http://www.newportacademy.com/treatment-program/).

Feature photo: Africa Studio / Shutterstock.com

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