The media has untruthfully portrayed psychiatric illness. In movie after movie, psychiatric patients are shown either to be sedated, to be homeless, to be violent, or to be funny and eccentric characters. The viewpoint is always based on an outsider looking in, and it misses the real point of what mental illness is about.
Most recently, we have the movie “It’s Kind of a Funny Story.” While I have not seen the movie, the preview makes me think about the media’s depiction of psychiatric patients as people with eccentric personalities. In reality, while some psychiatric patients may have eccentric personalities, it is illness that makes the vast majority of them eccentric. The movie also makes me think about how depression is portrayed as a “normal” illness while other illnesses, like schizophrenia, are portrayed as abnormal. While depression may be more common in the general population, this is not a reason why it should be validated in our culture while other mental illnesses are segregated.
In another movie, “The Soloist,” schizophrenia is portrayed as a crippling and violent condition with little hope for recovery. The protagonist eventually decides to help the schizophrenic person because he has a talent for playing the violin. It makes me think about a common misperception of mental illness, namely that it is impossible to control. It also makes me think a disturbing thought: that others may view a schizophrenic person as not worth saving if he or she is not extraordinarily talented. If someone had this mindset, they would be much less likely to help a person with mental illness.
We have had enough stereotyping and misrepresentation of mentally ill individuals in the media. What really needs to be addressed is the normality of psychiatric disorders so as to demystify them. We need to inform the general population of the realities of psychiatric disorders: that they are experienced by “normal” people and that they can be managed.