Thursday, March 8, 2012

Scene's are Improving and Mental Illness is Now Being Seen

I do not know how many folks out there with a mental illness agree, but this topic really needs to be addressed. I for one have noticed that individuals with mental illnesses are portrayed negatively on television.  They are violent and most likely to be villainous. Thanks to new reality shows, portrayal has become true to life, whether it is on talk shows, or reality shows, like Intervention, True Life, or Hoarders.  Nevertheless, many of the shows and movies do portray those with mental illnesses in a not so fabulous light!

Why does the “psycho” main character on a Lifetime movie have to recently been released from a mental hospital, be unstable, or have multiple personality disorder.  Mental illness is shown in a variety of television programs, including but not limited to, primetime television, soap operas, and children’s programs. Why are folks with mental illnesses on television always violent? Will children grow up thinking that those with mental health issues are “scary” and “weird”?

Commercials tend to a bit better, when advertising for psychotropic medications, but they always start with “Are you feeling down and not able to function like you used to?”

While I was doing some research for this blog, I came across many great examples of organizations and TV shows that are contributing to making a difference in the portrayal of mental illnesses. I surprised myself; by leaving this blog, feeling hopeful that things ARE being done to help increase positive awareness in the media, and portrayal is definitely headed in the correct direction. We still have a ways to go but I think things are getting better! Thanks to the help of these organizations:

The Entertainment Industries Council “is a resource for creative professionals, from writers and directors to producers, researchers, actors, and other players in the creative community,” according to its website. The Entertainment Industries Council, Inc. produces the annual PRISM Awards to recognize entertainment productions that accurately depict drug, alcohol and tobacco use and addiction.

The Entertainment Industries Council, Inc. (EIC) annually presents, in collaboration with FX Network, Boeing, and News Corporation, the PRISM Awards™, a nationally televised awards show recognizing the accurate depiction of substance abuse and mental illness: prevention, treatment, and recovery in film, television, interactive, music, DVD, and comic book entertainment. Established in 1997, the PRISM Awards honor productions that are not only powerfully entertaining, but also realistically show substance abuse and addiction, as well as mental health issues.

Additionally, here are some of the movies and television shows that have contributed to creating the portrayal of mental illness, in a more positive light, many of these shows have won the PRISM award.  Here are some examples of television broadcasting:

United States of Tara: Main character has Multiple Personality Disorder
Grey’s Anatomy: “Suicide is Painless”

90210: One of the main characters, Silver, is diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.

Friday Night Lights: After exhibiting key characteristics of bi-polar disorder - hypersexuality followed by euphoria followed by depression - "Smash" Williams's girlfriend Waverly Grady admits that she hasn't been taking her medications for a "mood disorder", which is eventually revealed indeed to be bi-polar. This causes her and Smash's relationship lots of trial, though Smash is willing to put in the effort.

Parenthood: Adam and Kristina Braverman's eight-year-old son Max has many quirks - insisting on wearing a bandana and pretending to be a pirate, for instance. Nevertheless, after getting into trouble at school, the Bravermans find out Max may have (and after testing are confirmed he does have) Asperger's. The series highlights the parents' conflict learning to deal with a disabled child.
General Hospital:  Soap opera crime boss Sonny Cor-inthos, played by Maurice Benard, is diagnosed with bipolar disorder during the 2006 season. (Benard is diagnosed with bipolar disorder in real life.) Sonny accepts his diagnosis and agrees to take his medication.
ER: Sally Field, as Maggie Wyczenski, endures major manic and depressive episodes, and must also face the implications of bipolar being inherited by other family members. The role earned her an Emmy.
The Mary Kay Letourneau Story: All American Girl: Mary Kay Letourneau, age 35, was a teacher, wife, and mother who had an affair with a boy age 13, in the seventh grade. After bearing his daughter, Letourneau was arrested for child rape. She was diagnosed as having bipolar, but reportedly did not take her medication regularly.

Additionally, here are some examples of portrayal of mental illness in some popular movies; many of which have won some PRISM Awards:

Michael Clayton:  Attorney Michael Clayton must deal with his colleague Arthur Edens’ apparent mental breakdown because of bipolar disorder. A client of the law firm is linked to toxic agrochemicals and Clayton becomes aware of a cover-up. As the plot evolves, Edens is assassinated in what is made to appear as his suicide.
Mad Love: In this teen movie, Matt Leland wanted a new girl, and falls in love with Casey Roberts, a woman whose spirit he admires. That energy is attributable to her bipolar disorder; he learns that she has been in institutions a number of times. Her love interest motivates her to continue her quest for treatment.
Sophie’s Choice: Jewish Nathan Landau “rescued” Sophie after Auschwitz, and he is plagued with incessant thoughts of the Holocaust. He abuses alcohol and suffers bipolar mood swings.

The Fighter

Holy Rollers

Iron Man 2

White Irish Drinkers

Winter’s Bone

All Good Things

Black Swan

Frankie and Alice


Mother and Child


Thanks to the research I did for this blog, I educated myself that things ARE getting better, but those Lifetime movies still have a LONG way to go. As do other movies and television shows that use mental illness as a way to create a reaction such as humor.

Bipolar Betty


Anonymous said...

I agree completely!!

Anonymous said...

I agree and wrote a piece on that topic for university. However, Private Practice recently portrayed bipolar disorder I accurately. I hope they continue.