Stigmas in Media

Don’t always believe what you see on TV

Cindy Diaz, Staff Writer & Copy Editor

It doesn’t take professional scientific research to understand how misinformed we have become in regards to mental illnesses.

According to U.S News, a research conducted in 2015 suggested that “many people gain an unfavorable or inaccurate view of those with psychological disorders simply by skimming a few sentences or picking up a remote control.”

Through movies, books, and TV shows, mainstream media has stigmatized and negatively portrayed mental disorders that society tends to stereotype as violent and dangerous. We are rarely exposed to any educational sources that accurately depict mental disorders by what they really are, but instead by what people vaguely think they look like.

It’s easy to find these misconceptions in well-known movies, such as, The Silence of the Lambs, a 1991 film based on the story of Hannibal Lecter, an imprisoned psychiatrist who was convicted for murdering and cannibalizing his victims. He suffered from schizophrenia, and his condition supposedly explained his misbehavior and justified his violent personality. Ironically, research from the University of Southern California concluded that schizophrenic people are “more likely to be victims of violence, rather than perpetrators of crimes.”

Erroneous portrayals of mentally ill people, like Hannibal, develops unrealistic ideas of their conditions and ultimately lead to ambiguous and misleading interpretations. Mainstream media overexaggerates whatever illnesses they can, as that is what receives attention.

“People aren’t interested in watching someone with a minor illness go to a self-help group. Just look at ER–they only show the most extreme cases,” said Robert Berger, Ph.D., and director of forensic psychiatry at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York City, during an interview with Psychology Today.

Misrepresentation of mental disorders damages and alters our perceptions and the way we see and deal with these problems. Most importantly, it affects people who struggle with these issues. The stereotypes we believe in generates an unwelcoming environment for those who are afraid to open up about their condition. It trivializes their struggles and obliterates the importance of being able to differentiate between stigmas and reality, and also being aware and well-informed in our society.

As long as we believe these stigmas, we will continue to be unaware and ill-informed in our society.