One in every seventeen people in America suffers from a mental disorder. These disorders inhibit the afflicted person from functioning properly and coping normally with daily life. Many afflicted with a psychological disorder do not exhibit obvious symptoms, as medical advancements have made it possible for these disorders to be suppressed or even nonexistent. Today, however, harsh stigmas exist that unfairly categorize those with a mental illness as violent, unfriendly, and abnormal. The media and federal government are culprits in fabricating the unrealistic depictions of mental disability that define the portrayal of those who are mentally or psychologically disadvantaged.
The media is and has been one of the strongest outlets of perpetuating negative mental illness stereotypes. Since the invention of the television and its spread to every American household by the 1960s, television shows have manufactured an image of the mentally disabled as dangerous and unpredictable . The shows depict the mentally ill as very violent; “One in four mentally ill characters kill someone, and half are portrayed as hurting others .” The ways in which mentally disabled are filmed within a show also differs from the ways that non-disabled characters are shot. Studies show that they are usually filmed “alone with close-up or extreme shots, reinforcing their isolation and dislocation from the other characters ” and from society. In movies, like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the characters who are treated in psychiatric wards are similarly portrayed as crazy and violent, while the mental health field as a whole is negatively stereotyped. Movies make the facilities out to be places where electroshock and psychosurgery are commonly practiced medical procedures, which shocks many viewers, and is completely fallacious . Entertainment media is hugely impactful; the majority of Americans watch television, so these inaccurate depictions of mentally ill characters shape how thousands view the mentally disabled.
News broadcasts and reports are equally culpable in their portrayal of mentally challenged individuals. In the fight to gain an interested audience, reporters “sell” stories instead of simply “telling” them. As a result, mental illness is overemphasized to elicit a stronger reaction from the audience.
“A good story catches public attention either by focusing on conflict and controversy or by raising issues of public safety—all perspectives that may place journalists in direct conflict with mental health advocates. News media, particularly newspapers, are among the most frequently identified sources of mental health information. This gives them great scope to dispel inaccurate and stigmatizing stereotypes perpetuated in the entertainment media or to reinforce and amplify them. Results show that news representations of mental illness […] are largely inaccurate and negative. Reporters emphasize the violent, delusional and irrational behavior of people with a...