I’ve been heavy-headingly making my way through these past couple of days with a nasty head cold, so unfortunately I don’t have any thing remotely close to incredible insight that I can offer for this week’s blog.
That being said, when I sat down at my computer this morning in order to decide what to write about, one thought came to mind: media portrayal. To give the media a fair chance, I will start by stating that they are not always entirely horrible. However….they do tend to be pretty inaccurate/upper-extreme in their portrayals of a variety of things.
i.e. What kind of people are feminists? According to media portrayals, they are generally the bitchy women who managed to make their way to the top of a business management, and will leave work (after an over-time shift) to return home to their lesbian relationship. Heaven forbid that a stay-at-home mom could be a feminist. Or her husband could be, for that matter. (I hope you notice my sarcasm.)
Anyway, noticing such inaccurate/incomplete/upper-extreme portrayals (such as the one mentioned above) made me wonder what kind of portrayal mental-illness is given in today’s media. I had one “positive” example come to mind, and that is the movie “The Beautiful Mind.” In the movie, the main character (John Nash) has a form of schizophrenia, causing him to form relationships (that, in his reality, are very much real) that are unaccepted as "real" by the standard measure of reality. He is not portrayed as someone who has "escaped from the looney bin and needs to be put back" but rather as someone who faces a struggle and tries to overcome it, much like one struggle against any other illness. You see parts of the personal aspect of treating mental illness...Nash informs his doctor with regret that he is stopped taking his medication, as he felt that it changed him entirely and he was no longer able to do things that he was formally able to do. Subsequently, you see the relapses that he endures into his [acceptably-false] reality as he re-establishes his relationships with characters who are simply creations of his own mind. And, toward the end of the movie, you can see the cautious approach that he holds in life, as to not unintentionally relapse into an active bout of schizophrenia.
However, apart from this movie, when I think of mental-healtl portrayal within the media, I can't quite put my finger on why this is (i.e. no immediate movies or TV shows etc come to mind as proof of this) but I recognise that, in general, there has been a very negative stigma attached to mental-illness. I can recall various TV shows in which the person facing a struggle in mental-health is viewed as an outcast, etc.
And this made me wonder........how on earth ARE we to portray mental health in our media? Part of me wants to fight for my belief that "people are people, regardless of medicinal diagnosis" and accordingly not have the media recognise mentally-ill people as any different than any other people....but then this fails to raise awareness on mental health issues. The modern-day media is undoubtedly the fastest way to bring people's attention to something, whether it is through movies, magazines, facebook ads, etc....the media is in our face all the time.
So, what do you think? How should the media be portraying mental-health? How can it use its resources to raise accurate awareness on the issues surrounding mental-health? Not simply exposing the "extreme" cases in a negative light, but to authentically educate our general public with the realities surrounding mental health.
I would love to hear your thoughts on:
- the way YOU see mental health being portrayed throughout our media
- the way YOU think mental health SHOULD be portrayed
- and anything else :).