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St. Joseph's Care Group
with an OPEN mind :: Media & Mental Illness

The images of mental illness that are presented to the public shape their attitudes and influence their behaviour. When those images are unfavorable and inaccurate, as they often are, they contribute to the stigma and discrimination that represent formidable barrier to treatment and recovery.

Media coverage of Aids and HIV has swung well away from the "gay plague" reporting of the early 80s, and it's time coverage of mental illness becomes more informed as well.

Note: The terms "media" and "mass media" include newspapers, radio, television, and film.

  • the mass media are a primary source of public information about mental illness
  • media representations of mental illness promote false and negative images and stereotypes
  • there is a connection between negative media portrayals of mental illness and the public's negative attitudes toward people with mental health issues
  • negative media portrayals have a direct impact on individuals living with mental illness
  • there is a connection between negative media portrayals of mental illness and government responses to mental health issues
Some of the stereotypical depictions of people with mental illness include the following:
  • rebellious free spirit
  • violent seductress
  • narcissistic parasite
  • mad scientist
  • sly manipulator
  • helpless and depressed female
  • comedic relief

Such characters have no identity outside of their stereotypical "crazy" behaviour, and are primarily identified by an inferred mental illness. When mental illness or behaviours commonly associated with mental illness are presented as a character's main personality traits, to the exclusion of any other characteristics, the illness or behaviour becomes the only way of defining that person and the main point of the story.

Mental Illness in Film
Mental Illness in Television