Media and Mental Illness

I grew up watching the soap opera The Young and the Restless. It was one of Mom’s favorites. A couple of years ago, the writers of the show surprised me when they diagnosed one of their main characters Sharon Newman with Bipolar disorder. I was thankful and proud of them for taking on this illness, but I was afraid that the storyline would continue and they would never mention Sharon’s illness again. However much to my surprise, that has not been the case. Even today, they bring up her diagnosis. It is a small step, but I think it is a step in the right direction; a step to continue to educate others about mental illnesses.

I also was quite impressed with the movie “Silver Linings Playbook” which stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence released in 2012. I had seen the previews but didn’t know a ton about the storyline. That day as my sister and I sat in the movie theatre, we found ourselves fully pulled into the storyline. In fact, the movie was so powerful that I ended up downloading the book onto my Kindle the minute I finished the book I was currently reading. The book, of course, was better than the movie which usually is the case. But the movie didn’t stray too far from the manuscript of the book. I even bought a copy of the DVD when the movie was released. So if you haven’t seen the movie, I would recommend you see it. Or if you are a reader, definitely read the book too! I think it will help you understand and educate you about mental health issues.

Media has a way of using mental health in a negative light. It seems that anytime there is something bad like a school shooting, media jumps to the conclusion that the person has a mental health issue. I am not arguing that that may not be the case, but if that is true, they need to get help. Mental illnesses are treatable. I think of an article I once read about Adam Lanza after the Sandy Hook shooting. The article was titled (if I am remembering correctly) ” I am Adam Lanza’s Sister.” I may not be Adam Lanza’s sister but I could be. In fact, many individuals out there are. They are someone’s wife, daughter, mother, sister, and the list goes on. In fact, I am a daughter….a daughter of someone who daily lives and struggles with a mental illness. Yet Mom has never let her illness get in the way of who she is.

Earlier this morning, I read a tweet that one of my seminary classmates and friends retweeted from Soren Kierkegaard. The quote is such a beautiful quote and I think it is so true. I think we need to take the time to show love to each other; to show love to those who have been pulled in by the darkness. Love, especially God’s love, has the power to overcome even the darkness of a mental illness. In fact, I hope that the media will follow examples like Y and R and Silver Linings Playbook or even Robin William’s death to remind us how these individuals are not defined by their illnesses, but rather defined by who God created them to be.

“When you fully enter the realm of love, this broken world becomes rich and beautiful, and consists solely of opportunities for love.”–Soren Kierkegaard

8 thoughts on “Media and Mental Illness

  1. I know several people with bipolar disease. AND, that is exactly what mental illness is – disease. Everyone is so quick to take meds for this or that, but when it comes to their mental state all of a sudden there is condemnation associated with that. God help us all. Good post.

  2. My father was bi=polar and never sought help until his 50s. I wish I could have turned back the clock. What a different life my brothers and sister would have had. Thanks for sharing. We need to do more to focus on ensuring people do not fall through the cracks and get help. One way would be to take the stigma away from admitting you have mental health issues.

  3. Tara,
    Yes! This is a beautiful post. I love what you said here: "I think we need to take the time to show love to each other; to show love to those who have been pulled in by the darkness."

    Amen to that. And I hadn't read the Kierkegaard quote before. What powerful words.

  4. I love your words! I think sometimes there is a huge stigma behind mental illness, just recently I was told I am a high risk postnatal depression sufferer. I think if things aren't talked about or are constantly shown in a negative light that people will never discuss it. Bravo for your wonderful post. Let's break the stigma.

  5. Yes, yes, yes! In light of everything that has happened with me over the past couple of years, I have become especially sensitive to the treatment of mental illness in the media. Unfortunately, a lot of times, they completely mishandle it and present a lot of bad information which only leads to more misunderstanding. I was heartened in the wake of Robin Williams' death to see a lot of good media and online conversations about the subjects of suicide, depression, and other mental illness. I've told Pendragon and Gray both recently that I think I might like to eventually pursue a more active role as an advocate for mental illness education and mental health care. Not sure how I'd go about it, but it's something that I feel like God may be putting on my heart. I would love for mental health/illness awareness to be as popular as breast cancer awareness because it affects SO many people and not just those who suffer with the various illnesses, but their families and friends and coworkers and neighbours. I've had Silver Linings Playbook in my Netflix queue for quite a while now and have yet to watch it. Maybe this weekend I can watch it with Gray (don't think I want to watch it alone). God bless you, my friend! This was a fantastic post!

  6. Movies/Television has gotten much better in how mental illness is portrayed. I've worked in (and currently still) work in the mental health field for many many years. One of my personal mantras with patients is "If you treat people like a human, they will act like a human. If you treat people like their disease, they will act like their disease."

    No matter how ill someone is, mental or physical, we are all human. All made in the image of God. And nothing, mental or physical or otherwise, will stop God from loving us.

    Thank you for sharing your story!

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