Mental illness and its treatment is an issue that has been thought and rethought by learned circles over the past two centuries. Unfortunately there is still a great sense of stigma surrounding the issue, perpetuated by mass media(Stout, Jorge Villegas, and Nancy A Jennings 2004, 543) . In this essay, the ways in which mental illness is essentialised and stigmatised by the media will be discussed, using examples from the media with two main examples from two different countries, these being: one of the interviews with Charlie Sheen that took place early in 2011(ABCNews 2011) and footage from a current affairs program in Australia on Australian New’s anchor Charmaine Dragun’s fight with bi-polar depression(AMVideos 2008).
In the specific interview of Charlie Sheen (ABCNews 2011) that is being analysed, the interviewer asks Charlie probing questions about his recent behaviour to gain an insight into his personality. The interview’s main purpose is to essentialise him by probing into his behaviour and sensationalising it but not showing evidence that would explain the complexities behind it e.g. opinions from experts in psychology. It also others him as bi-polar while not understanding the complexities of his case. It has been said that the media draw on sensational images, words and other elements specifically to make a story popular(Nairn, Sara Coverdale, and Coverdale 2011, 204) , this action would have a detrimental affect to the people involved.
Figure 1. The interviewer in the picture demonstrating the essentialist view of people suffering from bi-polar disorder: “Two sides of the spectrum”. (ABCNews 2011)
In several instances, Charlie is forced to other himself to explain his responses to the interviewer’s questions(ABCNews 2011). One of the most telling aspects of the interview, is when the interviewer says that “I think some of those things that you are putting out there are making people think that there is something wrong with you”. This shows that the interviewer is trying to define Charlie Sheen, trying to essentialise what it is that makes him himself ,by saying that there is something wrong with him. He responds by saying that this has nothing to do with him, which is in essence true, as it is the public that is responding to a stereotype. He goes onto say that the public are entitled to interpret “stuff” as they must, which is exactly what is happening. The interviewer directly asks him if he is bipolar, thus attempting to not only label him but also label everyone else with mental illness (Figure 1). He then responds with “I’m bi-winning”. When he says this he is re-affirming his own identity and creating his own culture, separate to the interviewer’s and the public (figure 2). Even the tagline for the interview, “bi-polar or bi-winning” typifies this occurrence(figure 3) . This shows the interview is trying to influence what the public will think about mental illness and about Charlie Sheen (ABCNews...