Thoughtful Thursday: Mental Health in Media


Speaking as someone who struggles with a variety of mental health issues, it might seem strange that I don’t like many books, tv shows, or movies that involve said topics.  There have even been times I completely stopped watching or reading because of this.  But isn’t it a good thing that mental illness is being portrayed in media?


At least it’s now being talked about at all.  We are no longer in a society when mental health is hush hush.  The fact that these topics are making their way to mainstream media does point toward the idea of more awareness of the issue at hand.


Quite a lot of the time these books, tv shows, movies – they get it wrong.  The information is either not factual or worse – so dramatic that it gives a very bad view on the mental illness.  For those who may not have any other first hand knowledge of a mental illness, this is the very first impression they get.


MV5BMTkyMDQ1ODMwM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDkwNjU2NDE@._V1_SX214_AL_There are quite a lot of examples where mental health is represented badly.  Wonderland has an awful account of schizophrenia, Fatal Attraction badly plays out the traits borderline personality disorder, Black Box portrays a very dramatic version of bipolar disorder, Thr3e by Ted Dekker is an abnormal view on Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder).  There are also countless books which display incredibly first or second hand accounts often in memoir form.  When most people hear the phrase Multiple Personality Disorder they instantly think Sybil.

MV5BMTQyNzMwNTg0MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDk3MDAwMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR4,0,214,317_AL_These are some extreme examples, there are far more subtle variations on these.  Monk’s obsessive compulsive disorder that never seems to get better despite regular therapy as opposed to the sudden miracle in Somethings Gotta Give.  What about the joking manner that is displayed around asperger’s syndrome and social anxiety in The Big Bang Theory?  Can you think of any movies, TV shows, books that declare drug use, depression, anxiety, severe low self esteem, lack of identity as just normal experiences in adolescence?  I know I can.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate these movies, TV shows, books.  Ted Dekker remains to be one of my favorite authors and I really like the book Thr3e.  I love the shows Black Box as well as The Big Bang Theory.  I know they aren’t accurate descriptions of these conditions.  What about the population that doesn’t know?  How might these media influences effect the way they treat real people they meet with these illness’s?

In Good News

While there are a lot of examples of the wrong way to do this – more and more now accurate descriptions are being portrayed in movies, tv, and books.  Girl, Interrupted had a very accurate depiction of borderline personality disorder both in the movie and the book.  A Beautiful Mind had a positive view on schizophrenia.  Becoming One by Sarah Olsen is one of my favorites about dissociative identity disorder.

What I’m most encouraged by is how many books are now available that are directly focused to both people with these illness’s and their family. Some of these conditions are being viewed in entirely new ways than just a few years ago.  Depression and anxiety are more widely known about and quite more accurately.


I don’t think it’s completely bad that we have inaccurate depictions in media.  A lot of these are based on fiction and well, fiction isn’t real.  But what we do need is open discussion of what is accurate and what isn’t.  Let’s discuss if these movies, TV Shows, books perpetuate stigma or open a possible avenue for further education.  More importantly, what do you know about mental health in it’s many forms?

Some of My Favorite Mental Health Books

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen (Borderline Personality Disorder)

She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb (PTSD)

I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb (Severe Paranoid Schizophrenia)

A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer(Abuse Memoir)

Becoming One by Sarah Olsen (Dissociative Identity Disorder) (My Review)

I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me by Jerold J. Kreisman, Hal Straus (Borderline Personality Disorder)

Sometimes I Act Crazy by Jerold J. Kreisman, Hal Straus (Borderline Personality Disorder)

The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass, Laura Davis (Sexual Abuse, PTSD)

Courage to Heal Workbook by Laura Davis (Sexual Abuse, PTSD)

Allies in Healing by Laura Davis (Family of Survivors of Abuse)

Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer (General – Christian content)

You can find even more books related to mental health here. *

*Those listed in the above link may or may not be accurate descriptions or portrayals of mental illness.  If you aren’t sure, I encourage you to do some research.  Knowledge is power.


7 thoughts on “Thoughtful Thursday: Mental Health in Media

  1. Great post, really should make people think! I have similar feelings about books/movies/tv and cancer, specifically bone marrow transplants, since I have had two. They are almost always incorrect as to procedure. Then I watch the credits and they have a medical expert consultant, so how does that happen? I guess they don’t take the advice unless it fits the already constructed plot, especially with TV.
    Do you have any thoughts on The Rosie Project? I know he never uses the term Aspberger’s, but it sure seems like Don has it. It bothered me that the author has no Aspberger’s experience or experts who helped him.


    • I hadn’t thought of physical health but it doesn’t surprise me that it’s not portrayed any more realistically. It seems even more baffling to me when that type of information seems so much easier to achieve somewhat accurately. One thing I’ve noticed that is almost always wrong in books, tv shows, movies – hospitals. Especially psychiatric units. I’m always watching or reading and saying “nope, nope, not how that works, nope”.
      I’ve not read The Rosie Project yet but it wouldn’t surprise me. I’ve seen a lot of brushed over depictions of the autism spectrum. Alphas is the only thing I can think of that perhaps has a more realistic character with autism. That being said his autism comes with an ‘alpha’ ability so it’s a bit on the borderline.


  2. You bring up some really good points here. The fact that mental illness is being discussed more is definitely a good thing, but I agree that sometimes it can be portrayed in a non-realistic way. I guess you’re right that the best way to make sure you’re getting the right message is to do some of your own research! (By the way, a great book about schizophrenia is Neal Shusterman’s newest – Challenger Deep. It’s told from the perspective of a teenager with schizophrenia, so it’s a little strange, but Shusterman based a lot of it on his own son’s real experiences, so it’s also very realistic!)

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: The Sunday Post (4/20 – 4/26) | Glorious Panic

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