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  1. 1. Short 1Emily ShortMr. Lee BullockWRD111-03111 February 2013 The Medias Portrayal Of and Effects On the Mentally Ill In todays world the media is one of the main resources for entertainment andinformation. People tune in to watch the news, sitcoms, reality shows, and movies every day.Whether the purpose of watching these programs is for pleasure or to gain new knowledge, aspecific message is still put across to the person watching. Different television channels andmovie directors may explain that their programs are not bias, however an idea is still alwaysportrayed when giving information or telling a story. One specific topic that is difficult to tackleis mental illness. When a news reporter is reporting a story involving the mentally ill or the plotof a movie involves one with a mental illness, the entire idea of mental illness is given a specificportrayal. These portrayals have the capability to be positive, negative, and even effect thosewho are actually suffering from a mental illness. Encountering mental illness by watching the media is one of the most effective ways tomake an impression. In 1997 the results of a study showed that the encounters of mental illnessthrough media have more of an effect on the public opinion than direct interaction with peoplethat actually suffer from mental illness, according to a fact sheet on sane.com. The media alsohas a strong effect on those suffering from mental illness. Dara Roth Edney explains that Mind, amental health charity in the United Kingdom, surveyed a large group of people suffering fromnumerous mental illnesses and 34% of the people who were surveyed explained that mediaincluding portrayals of mental illness contributed to their depression and anxiety. Edney also
  2. 2. Short 2found, after examining Wahls studies, that "stigma due to negative media coverage impedesrecovery." The media does not only create its own depictions of mental illness, but it alsocontributes to popular stereotypes. Nowadays it is nearly impossible to escape all stereotypes, and one group of people thatseem to always have stereotypes against them are those suffering from mental illness. MargaritaTartakovsky made a list of some stereotypes and three of the most known ones are that peoplewith mental illness are violent, people with mental illness are unpredictable, and people withmental illness do not get better. The recent movie Perks of Being a Wallflower demonstrates thestereotype of people with mental illness being violent. When the main character Charlie, a highschool student suffering from extreme depression, sees his friend being threatened he physicallyattacks the boys who are assaulting him. Afterward he claims that he cannot remember what hedid. The television show Family Guy produced an episode when the main character, PeterGriffin, took a standardized test to see if he was a genius and his score identified him as mentallyhandicapped. For the rest of the episode Peter does things like enter stalls in the womensrestrooms and use the excuse "sorry Im retarded" as if it makes his actions acceptable. In themovie Dear John the main character, John, has a father who is autistic. At first he does not knowhis father is autistic, but when he realizes he gets angry and feels frustrated that his father willnot instantly get better. All of these popular fictional stories in the media contribute to certainstereotypes pertaining to mental illness. Mental illness is something that is difficult for one to sweep under the rug and ignore.Certain illnesses are more severe than others, but all people suffering from mental illness feel thejudgment and pressure from society due to the media. Different television shows and moviesportray mental illness as something humorous, bothersome, and even scary. This portrayal of
  3. 3. Short 3mental illness to the public is taking a toll on those actually suffering from the illnesses. Theyfeel pressure from society to act a certain way, and feel like if they seek help they will be labeledas an outcast. The media targets multiple audiences when presenting its programs, and thosesuffering from mental illness are not included in any of those audiences.
  4. 4. Short 4 Works Cited"Current Evidence on the Impact of Media Reporting About Mental Illness." Sane StigmaWatch. CMHA Ontario. Web. 7 Feb 2013.Edney, Dara Roth. "Mass Media and Mental Illness: A Literature Review." Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario. CMHA Ontario, n.d. Web. 7 Feb 2013.Tartakovsky, Margarita. "Medias Damaging Depictions of Mental Illness." PsychCentral. Psych Central, 10 Feb 2013. Web. 10 Feb 2013.