How the media portrays mental illness can affect how the everyday person feels about the idea of having a mental disorder. The media tends to generalize disorders, using the term “mental illness” to describe the spectrum of disorders a person can have: from anxiety to schizophrenia. Stereotyping in any capacity is dangerous, and the generalization of an entire population of people who are living with a specific mental disorder creates a fear of the disorder and the people that live with it.
The media is quick to blame any sort of violence on a mental disorder, lending a considerable hand to the stigmatization of mental health. Additionally, characters who have a mental disorder in television shows and movies are often portrayed as unstable, volatile, and downright dangerous. For example, according to a recent study, more than 60 percent of people that were polled believe that people who have schizophrenia are inherently violent toward others, and 50 percent think that they are unpredictable. If someone who commits a violent act is schizophrenic, the media tends to point the finger at the disorder, rather than outside factors such as their financial disposition or whether or not they are abusing substances.
The truth is, those who have a mental disorder are far more likely to be the victim of a crime rather than the person committing the crime. Labels used in media like “psycho” and “maniac” further perpetuate the stigma that those who have a mental disorder are unstable and should be someone to fear. Furthermore, it also hinders those who have a legitimate concern about their mental health to come out and receive help they may desperately need.
When watching the news or reading the paper about a crime, if the reporter or writer uses a mental condition as a way of giving a reason for why the crime is committed please use critical thinking. Although a person may have had a mental disorder, it may not be the reason the crime was committed, and even if it was, don’t generalize about the entire population of people who are also suffering from the same disorder.