The Inaccurate Portrayal of Mental Health in Television

Kalia Richardson, News Editor

Every case is different. The chances of an individual morphing into a reptilian like beast with rhinoceros tusks and abducting young girls, presents an unlikely case. With reference to the recently released movie “Split” the main character experiences 23 personas as a result of Dissociative Identity Disorder. The hit Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” features a fictional character who hangs herself and mysteriously leaves 13 tapes explaining why she killed herself. Examples of such dramatized media exist solely for entertainment.

Actors, screenwriters, directors all make a living off of the attention span of the audience. Their reaction equates to big buck salaries. The audience must comprehend that they want to produce attention grabbing material. Through the insertion of touchy subjects recurring through news outlets, they can drag in an eager audience.

In today’s day and age, many children at the start of middle school have smartphones, meaning Wi-Fi capabilities meaning access to just about any movie and TV show through the internet. Preteens and teenagers have access to mature content, unsupervised by adults and only discussed in social circles at school and between other young watchers. Watchers visualize the aftermath of fatal events, drawing them to consider the result of suicidal thoughts. Additionally, seeking help from trustworthy figures is left bluntly out of the question as the exposure to violence grows.

The major issue revolving around this exploitation remains the poor portrayal of mental illness. Some critics see the message in “13 Reasons Why” as glorifying the concept of suicide, through the accounts of its protagonist Hannah, an ignored and bullied teen.

Oftentimes, those diagnosed with the disorder appear as monsters, as seen in “Split,” when in reality they are normal people who may unfortunately struggle with the basic procedures of life. These so-called creatures are normal human beings seeking help.

The help they receive appears either distant or insufficient. Psychologists and therapists portrayed as careless and the patient’s characterize them as invaluable and an embarrassment.  In the T.V. show, “American Crime” the protagonist, Taylor, dreads the occasional counselor visit in order to discuss his sexual orientation and a social media scandal (Pictures of him unconscious after being drugged and assaulted at a school party surface the internet). The discomfort towards a therapist produces a negative air in the minds of curious and learning youth. In extreme cases, they’re placed in psychiatric wards, left to rot, with no hope for cures or rehabilitation. As seen in the film “A Cure for wellness,” sick patients sent to a health center in Switzerland cease to progress.

In an even more dramatic light, episodes and movies conclude on eerie and unexpected notes–all in order to keep the audience on their toes, clawing for a sequel. Every single person with a diagnosis does not experience an inevitable death or inescapable rehabilitation center, many situations exist where they seek help and recover. Excluding such a valuable step in the process of battling a disorder proves that the producers are not creating a movie in the effort to help those in need. A film and a mystical plot reign superior.

When it comes to concluding on this topic, recognizing the disorder and exposing it to the audiences demonstrates that such disorders exist. Maybe not to such extreme degrees, but there are individuals out there that suffer with mental illness. As seen in “Split” “13 Reasons Why” “A Cure for Wellness,” etc… they project characters in a negative light leaving out ways to recuperate. The right resources need to be recognized either during or after the show, if they’d like to halt their streak of miserably portraying mental illness.