What TV Gets Wrong About Mental Illness
October 17, 2019
More than 45 million Americans experience mental illness every year. That’s about 1 in 5 adults.
There’s so much stigma surrounding this ailment that people go to great lengths to hide their mental health condition, including failing to seek or dropping out of treatment.
A huge chunk of the negative stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding mental illness come from mass media. Unfortunately, many movies and TV shows portray an inaccurate picture of mental illness.
When people with mental health issues are constantly bombarded by negative stereotypes from the media, they can easily internalize those stereotypes, createing self-stigma.
They form negative beliefs about themselves, and adjust their behavior to fit those beliefs. For instance, they might start believing that they’re weak, which is a myth, and stop pursuing opportunities for education and employment.
Here are some common myths about mental illness:
Myth 1: People with mental health problems are violent
Most people with mental health conditions are no more violent than anyone else. In fact, people with serious mental illness only commit 3%–5% of all violent acts. What TV doesn’t show is that they’re actually likelier to be victims of violent acts than perpetrators.
Myth 2: People with mental health problems cannot hold down a job
This stereotype causes people with mental health conditions to hide their situation from their employers and colleagues. However, the truth is that most of them are just as productive as other employees as long as they are receiving treatment.
Myth 3: Mental Illness is a character flaw
Mental illness isn’t caused by a personality weakness or a character flaw. It’s actually the result of a combination of factors including genetics, physical illness, brain chemistry and trauma.
Myth 4: Mental Illness is the result of bad parenting
Childhood trauma can contribute to mental illness but bad parenting alone doesn’t cause mental illness; other factors such as genetics and chemical imbalance in the brain must also be present.
Myth 5: Mental illnesses is a lifelong sentence
Mental health conditions can be treated with medication, therapy, or both. There’s absolutely no reason why people who are receiving treatment for mental health conditions shouldn’t live a happy and productive life.
While stereotypes about mental illness may make for good TV, they can create dangerous situations for people dealing with mental health problems. As such, we must keep busting these myths and any stigma they create.