Challenging and Changing How we Think about Mental Illness and Addiction

I was contacted by Mel Gaines about an article she wrote on Mental Illness, and I read through it with interest mostly because of how some people do perceive us and it. I was pleasantly surprised at how she saw Mental illness and agreed with some of her points. Media does play a big part in all our lives from how we look to how others see us.

Here’s a short introduction by Mel and the links to the article.  🙂 enjoy, and please let her know where you got the link from 🙂


Challenging and Changing How we Think about Mental Illness and Addiction

Media portrayals of people with addictions or mental illnesses are often inaccurate, and as a result, there’s still a considerable amount of stigma faced by people affected by these problems. What can be done to change the narrative?

Overwhelmingly, the media portrays mental illness and addiction inaccurately, often by playing to stereotypes: for example, addicts who are unable to successfully move through the recovery process, or people with mental illnesses who commit violent crimes or are institutionalized for life. Studies show that most media portrayals depict people who act in ways that are considered deviant, while there are relatively few portrayals that depict people affected by addictions or mental illnesses in a positive light.

Other studies show that in general, people’s opinions about addiction and mental illness are strongly influenced by the media. For example, according to national survey results, many Americans say they don’t want to work with or live next to people with mental illnesses or addiction problems. More than half believe that such people are likely to be violent, even though people with mental illnesses are more likely to be victims of violent crime than they are to be perpetrators. It’s likely, then, that the continuing stigma that surrounds these problems are also influenced by the media.

Could media portrayals of people who successfully undergo treatment reduce the stigma, and make people less likely to express discriminatory attitudes? Recent studies looking at people’s attitudes to narratives about recovered addicts suggests that this might be the case.

Given the enormous influence that the media has on public perceptions of mental illness and addiction, it’s vital that the media begin to make recovery more visible, by paying more attention to success stories, and by creating accurate portrayals of people affected by these problems.

2 comments on “Challenging and Changing How we Think about Mental Illness and Addiction

  1. Hi, I totally agree with the article – I know first hand how difficult and challenging it is for a person who suffers from a mental illness. My son is schizoprenic and became ill at the age of sixteen, he is now nearly 37. I can’t stand the way people stare at him or how people act like he may do something to hurt them, however he is not violent and if anything society has hurt him by the negative way they portray people such as him. He is not some psycho path bent on hurting someone and I think other countries in Europe appear to be more accepting than Americans.

    • Thanks for the comment Teresa, I feel for you both, such stigma really does hurt, and there are so many good people out there. Society is so sad.

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