How modern media’s attempts to combat the taboo surrounding mental health may be more damaging than it seems.
In recent years mental health has become a largely discussed topic throughout all forms of media, especially in film and television. As we are seeing a rise in representation of characters struggling with these issues, it leads many of us to question both the motives and impacts of these stories being told.
There is no doubt that as a society we have adapted hugely in comparison to decades ago in terms of attitudes to mental health, with there being so many positive changes including more open discussions, support groups, and charities to combat these issues that everybody faces. However it is just as important that we pay attention to not only the amount of coverage that is being given to mental health, but also the ways that it is portrayed through the storylines and characters seen.
Most would agree that it is important for films and shows to be entertaining for the viewers but this raises issues with mental health issues being depicted in the ‘Good Story Problem’.
This explains how disorders such as depression and anxiety can be glamorized and made to seem nicer than they are in order to fit the storyline of the film. This can mean that the characters in these fictional pieces who are struggling with disorders tend to find them being resolved by the end of the narrative, creating a false idea that mental health issues are easily dealt with and things can become normal straight after. This can be harmful as it makes viewers feel as if they are weak because they are constantly seeing stories of others handling the same issues as them in a healthier manner. When in reality that is not the case; mental health is much more complex than that, as dealing with and recovering from mental health issues can be messy and complicated. It is never as easy as when we see the television characters realise they are struggling with poor mental health, seek help, and resolve it within the same time period of their life. Mental health doesn’t commedate to a ninety minute feature film.
There is also a huge issue with the way the character is presented and as a result of that how their mental health is portrayed. For example a protagonist will be placed in the position of a hero and survivor because of their mental health issue whereas the antagonist of a story will be villainized for the struggles caused by their mental health. The approach to somebody with mental health issues should never be determined by their likeability as a person and this is a stigma perpetuated by modern media. It creates a myth that you have to act a certain way to be able to receive any help for the struggles you face which is not true. Despite what is being shown to us through our television screens, there is no correct way to act as a person with mental health issues. The only priority is attempting to work through it and learn how to take care of yourself, which projects itself in many ways for different people.
So, it is important for people to remember that the way mental health is illustrated in modern media is in no way an accurate representation of reality. To conclude there is no correct way to portray mental health in fiction as it manifests itself in so many different ways for different people. The key thing to remember is to not rely too much on film and television for information on mental health. If you are looking to find out information about mental health issues there are many other outlets for facts and support.