Television shows were made for the purpose of entertainment. Creating a mental illness storyline will bring intense drama into the show when presenting its challenges. The problem is that people take these dramatic shows seriously and think what they see on screen is what mental illness really is. It is important to know that mental illness has an unrealistic depiction on screen to for dramatic purposes and to not let television shows stop you from getting help.
A 2008 study from the Journal of Health Communications says that those with mental illness will not get help with their mental health condition if what they see on screen is a negative depiction of what they have. Television shows make mental illness characters seem weird and dangerous. For example, in “Scandal,” the character of Olivia Pope kills a bad man with PTSD being the excuse to her violent, out of control reactions to triggers. A majority of people with mental illness are not considered a threat to society or constantly lash out with violence or stranger behavior. Those with mental illness are capable of living typical lives with their disorder under control.
Another misconception is making mental illness funny. It is one thing for comedians to make light of their own mental illness to show that it is not all about tragedy and downfalls. It is another to poke fun at a disorder that is beyond someone’s control. For example, in the musical comedy-drama “Glee,” the character of guidance counselor Emma has OCD and there is a scene where someone throws up on her shoes which makes her take decontamination showers at the hospital. It is hard to tell whether we are supposed to feel bad for or laugh at her for frantically having to clean vomit off her shoes. If this scene was written to be funny, then that is telling audiences that those moments can be funny in real life. This will prevent audiences from taking serious situation seriously.
Television shows also show having a mental illness as a gift. For example, the detective in “Monk” uses his OCD to solve crimes. If television shows portray having a mental illness as a superpower, this will not convince anyone to get treatment. It is important for audiences to realize that what they see on television is not and how serious mental illness is if it is not treated.
Located in downtown Midland, The Springboard Center’s mission is to offer programs and services to treat alcohol and drug addiction treatment using an evidence based curriculum, 12 step programs, diet, nutrition, exercise, emotional, mental and spiritual development for a long recovery. For more information, please call us at 432-620-0255 as we are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.