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Mental Health and the Media

Jul 23, 2019 | 0 comments

Jul 23, 2019 | Essays | 0 comments

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Mental Health and the Media

The kind of information the media portrays about mental health in most cases leads to these perpetrators being labeled as crazy. This leads to a lot of negative effects on the victims with mental illnesses. In reality, an individual with mental illness is most likely a victim in almost all cases. When a violent criminal is labeled crazy, there is a spread of a certain dangerous stereotype that brings about a complicated relationship between mental illness and criminality. How the media portrays people suffering from mental illness always lead to trivialization or stigmatization (Cohen, 2011). All and every form of media for example television, magazines, newspapers have received a lot of criticisms for disseminating inaccurate and negative descriptions of individuals with mental illnesses. Mental illnesses like schizophrenia lead to more disruption to society than to those with it and these people should be isolated from the rest.

The first article I will analyze in this assignment is the article in the Health Communication Journal that was published in 2007 by Pavelko and Myrick. Mental illness patients suffer a lot from overgeneralization as portrayed by the media whereby, every individual with a particular disease is expected to show the same signs and symptoms. For example, it is assumed that every person suffering from depression is said to be suicidal and all those suffering from schizophrenia suffer from hallucinations. Having the same type of mental illness does not guarantee the same symptoms. As much as to one individual it might cause hallucination; to another person, it might bring about memory loss. For example, the assumption that all those suffering from schizophrenia hallucinations are so wrong as in reality, just between 60% and 80% of individuals with schizophrenia undergo auditory hallucinations while a very small number undergo visual hallucinations (Gauntlett-Gilbert, & Kuipers, 2013).

The media should not make mental illness look like a societal issue on the contrary; they should view it as a personal and individual issue. This is because most people who get this kind of information from the media tend to blame the person suffering from the illness. Most people do not understand that a person does not choose to have these mental illnesses. Just like accidents, depression, schizophrenia, and many more mental related health issues cannot be controlled. If only the media could consider that these illnesses cannot be avoided before feeding the public information about them, then people would be more aware of the facts before judging and blaming those with the illnesses. It is with sadness that the media portrays and shows the public that this illness is unrecoverable and untreatable. Mental illnesses with the right medication and care are treatable and the media should avoid releasing such misleading information to the public.

The fact that the media ignores that most people with mental illnesses would love to keep their conditions personal and not disclose them to everyone is heartbreaking. Mental health issues in most cases are never recognized. When the media exposes particular characteristics of a certain mental illness, the symptoms are made public and there is the disclosure of one’s mental health state and therefore the sickness they were not willing to tell everyone, becomes known to all. The facts and the unsupported information that the media portray lead to stigmatization of the affected individuals. For instance when they portray mental illness as a non-serious issue and a non-severe illness then it actually makes those with the illness not taken seriously. Therefore, many of the affected hide the extreme effects it has on them. The media oversimplifies mental illness. A very good example is, it portrays that those suffering from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder to be too much concerned and worried about perfectionism and cleanliness (Chorley, 2018). When they do this, the patient’s obsessive thoughts that make them do these are ignored. These people should be taken seriously and any slight impact they have should be observed keenly.

Ignoring their symptoms and overlooking them does not make it any better for them. No matter how slight change there is, they should be noted and preferably a doctor should be consulted. Not taking their illness seriously, judging them, and blaming them is not a wise move as it makes them not open up and seek help from physicians. This can cause suicides to most victims. Making assumptions and giving the public such information should be avoided by the media at all costs. In some cases, the media indicates the symptoms of mental illnesses as beneficial. A very good example of a beneficial portrayal is in the Monk series. In this show, the protagonist who is a detective is suffering from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder pays very close attention to all the details given and in return, he uses the information he gets to solve different crimes. This in return helps him advance his detective career. People should understand that those with mental illnesses are just like normal human beings and should be treated with love and care. They need it just as much as we do.

With the use of media channels, individuals without disabilities tend to mock people with disabilities by using terminologies of mental health. For example, people use the hashtag OCD (#OCD) frequently on Twitter to describe the cleanliness of a particular place or an organization. People do not realize how much they affect those suffering from these conditions. They cause stigma to them and make them very uncomfortable no matter the age of a person. Imagine opening Twitter as a person with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and the first thing you find is #OCD, how would you feel? People should avoid being insensitive at all costs. These are people’s brothers and sisters and they are going through a tough time the least they need is acceptance, support, and love. The media should control what they show to the public and try being in these people’s shoes. We all cannot be the same we are different and people should understand that.

In Entertainment by Media in 2012, the article named Portrayals of Schizophrenia was analyzed and it was found that almost 41 movies that had been released in the year 1990 and 2010 had Schizophrenia depictions. In these movies, most of the actors portrayed signs and symptoms of schizophrenia. In most cases, they showed delusions which were followed by visual and auditory hallucinations. Some characters also portrayed violent behaviors towards others and themselves. The causes of schizophrenia were noted and a quarter of these movies indicated that the main cause was various traumatizing events in a person’s life. The movies that showed treatment methods indicated that psychotropic medications were the most frequently used. These movies were very helpful in educating people about these mental illnesses. This is an example of what and how people should live. People should be the positive change someone needs in their lives and not the pain in it.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the media should think deeply and consider how what they post affects those individuals who have mental illnesses. People should be aware that the symptoms of mental illnesses are different in various people and should not expect every person with that illness to have the same symptoms. How the media portrays people suffering from mental illness always lead to trivialization or stigmatization and this should really be put into consideration before goes public with particular information. What a person posts, might cause stigma to the affected person and make them very uncomfortable no matter the age of a person. We as the people should stop blaming these conditions on the affected persons. On the contrary, we should give our full support no matter what.

References

Cohen, S. (2011). Folk devils and moral panics. Routledge.

Chorley, S. K. (2018). Negotiating Organizational Identity with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

Gauntlett-Gilbert, J., & Kuipers, E. (2013). Phenomenology of visual hallucinations in psychiatric conditions. The Journal of nervous and mental disease, 191(3), 203-205.

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