“ Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”
– Albert Einstein
What I find to be insane in today’s society (as outlined in the definition above) is how many people are fighting to dispel the myths, stereotypes and stigma surrounding mental disorders and mental health, yet the majority of representations and depictions of mental illness in the media continue to show inaccurate and outdated illustrations of people living with these conditions. How do we expect to effect change when we are continually reinforcing stereotypes?
The purpose of this blog is to critically examine current representations of mental disorders in the media whether that be television, advertisements, movies, books social media etc. I want to look at all representations , the good, the bad and the ugly. I feel it is extremely important to increase the accuracy of the stories that are currently being told as well as to create a greater diversity of illustrations of those living with mental disorders.
A few disclaimers:
First, I will use the term mental health condition or disorder rather than mental illness. This is a personal preference as I feel mental health is a spectrum just like physical health. In today’s society we do not refer to people with chronic but manageable physical illnesses such as diabetes as sick 24/7. I view mental health the same way. If a person with a mental disorder does not take good care of themselves (e.g. eat well, get enough sleep, exercise, take any necessary medications, seek psychological help when needed, etc.) then they will be sick just as when someone with diabetes does not manage their illness. Some days I am very mentally healthy and other days I am mentally unwell. However, to be clear, mental disorders are illnesses just like any physical illness with biological underpinnings and should be treated as legitimate conditions.
Second, I have been having panic attacks since the age of 14 and developed agoraphobia at the age of 17. When examining representations of anxiety disorders in the media, I often view this from the lens of my own personal experience, however I am also a practicing psychologist and will often use my evidenced based knowledge to critique the accuracy of what I am seeing. You may find my posts are littered with references to research, as I always do my best to make informed statements. Any opinions expressed on this site are my own and do not represent the discipline of psychology as a whole.
Third, while I am a psychologist, I am not here to provide psychological advice or counselling. I understand that the internet is a place where some people may feel more comfortable accessing help but it would be inappropriate and unethical for me to do so. If you or someone you know is currently experiencing a mental health crisis, please contact your local mental health services.
Now that I think I’ve covered all my bases, I hope this can be a way to start important conversations and help to educate others!