The Negative Portrayal of Schizophrenia in the Media/Entertainment Industry and The Fallout It Causes

 

95% of violent crime is carried out by individuals who DO NOT suffer from a mental illness.

 

Now there is a fact you don’t see every day. When I was a child I used to think that the nine o’clock news was the most boring thing. I thought that if when I became an adult, I would have to start watching it like it was a compulsory grown-up thing. I also thought that I would go to bed one night as a child the night before my eighteenth birthday, grow in my sleep and jump down the stairs the next morning a full grown adult. I failed to realise it was a progression thing, sure god help me. The innocence! So I was delighted to discover as I got older that no one was going to suddenly take away my Barbie dolls and hand me a newspaper one day.  As an actual adult now (not a very good one but an adult none the less) I find I have a bit of a media addiction. I have become what I had previously adorned. Social media and t’internets forever changed how we access news. With news websites using more and more “click-bait” style articles, by the end of a good Facebook binge I find I have read the equivalent of about three newspapers. News stories are easily accessible and can be shared in their millions.

The news can be depressing, we always see the bad news and anything positive gets little coverage in comparison. This is how the news has always and will always work, that is not my issue. My issue is how mental illness particularly schizophrenia is portrayed. In this day and age it is sickening to see how some journalists chose go down the sensationalist route. It is important to cover facts, a person committing violent crime is of course news. Mentioning that the person in question has schizophrenia by all means. A crime has happened, there is a victim/s here and their families, the public need to be informed of the incident and how it can be prevented from happening again. My problem is the way in which a lot of these stories are covered.

“PARINOID SCHIZOPHRENIC MURDERS IN COLD BLOOD”

Wrong just so wrong. As I said at the beginning of this piece research shows that 95% of violent crime is committed by people who DO NOT have a mental illness. So why is it that we only ever see schizophrenia in the media when it is being associated with violence? Research had also shown that people with schizophrenia are more likely to be victims of crime than to commit crime. Headlines such as the one above reinforce the stereotype that people like me with schizophrenia are dangerous. This can have a fiercely negative effect on those of us who led perfectly normal crime-free lives. The stigma that comes with schizophrenia is probably one of the scariest things to encounter when going through a schizophrenia diagnoses, trust me. 

What bothers me most of all and I mean this really, really gets to me; is how schizophrenia is portrayed in the entertainment industry. Films are a completely different kettle of fish because they are fiction. There is just no excuse for it. The Voices staring Ryan Reynolds, the Roommate, The Butcher Boy, Alphabet Killer and Me, Myself & Irene to name a few. I hate the latter with a passion because it’s the movie people refer to most when I tell them I have schizophrenia.

 

 

I am going to use the movie The Roommate as an example (your one from Gossip Girl is in it)

***** SPOILER ALERT *****

Two new roommates meet at college

Become friends

One girl starts getting possessive of the other

We find out she has schizophrenia and has not been taking her medication

She goes on a mad one and starts killing people/trying to kill people

If only she had taken her medication none of this would have happened attitude

And that’s pretty much it

Who writes this? Using a highly stigmatized, long term, demobilizing illness to wrap up your crappy excuse for a movie. Well done Hollywood.

Another classic is using the it-was-him-the-whole-time “plot twist”, we see that one time and time again. The character realising at the end of the movie that it was them that was getting up to all sorts of wacky adventures and that they have a split personality. Think Hide and Seek, Fight Club. This is not schizophrenia it is a completely unrelated condition called Dislocated Identity Disorder (DID). Now Fight Club is probably my favorite film, loves me some Ed Norton but ask most people what condition the character was suffering from chances are the majority will say schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is drilled into people’s heads as the go-to get out clause.

The majority of these movies seem to be horribly misinformed, sometimes it seems as if no research has been done whatsoever. Characters with schizophrenia either seem to be violent or a genius. Lifetimes are spend in mental hospitals. Medication cures all and if you stop taking your pills a bout of violent crime is inevitable. Even TV shows and soaps are guilty, the character only experiences symptoms when the story line calls for it. Also, soaps are great for throwing the “psychotic” word around, I notice more because I’m so aware of it but if you listen out it’s a regular thing to describe the soap bitch or villain as psychotic despite them never showing any signs or symptoms. Bad behavior, crime, spouse stealing or mouthing off is not psychotic; experiencing hallucinations, delusions or dis-organised speech is psychotic. In everyday life, please try not to use psychotic to describe a person you do not like or someone’s bad mood or attitude, it is a serious illness not an insult.

I could bang on and use several more examples but my point is the constant use of schizophrenia as a scapegoat has led to the illness becoming stigmatized. The entertainment industry and media can be misleading and the general population have unfortunately become misinformed. Schizophrenia has become an excuse for inexcusable actions. It is a lot harder to tell someone and get help for a condition which carries the weight of such strong misconceptions. Every time schizophrenia is used for sensationalism it sets us back. Not every person with schizophrenia spends their life in a mental hospital. Medication is not some required-by-law absolute must. An awful lot of us go on to lead normal, successful lives. Schizophrenia may be an in-curable disease but that does not mean it is unmanageable.

Stigma has delayed my recovery many times. I am okay with having a psychotic illness but sometimes other people’s ignorance can change that.

When I hear someone describe Schizophrenia as a multiple personality disorder or use the word schizo, it takes away a little bit of the resilience and self-acceptance I have worked so hard to build up.

Every time I see my mental health problem used in the media as an excuse or explanation for a person’s crime or wrong doing it can bring on feeling of shame and a need to justify my illness to those who tar us all with the same brush based on one individual’s actions.

A movie dealing with schizophrenia which I would actually recommend is Patrick’s Day (2014) by Terry McMahon starring Moe Dunford.

Schizophrenia can be played with a bit as long as it does not take away from the dignity of sufferers, creativity is always important but better still when the realism is still there.

Plus we Dungarvan people are cool. 

For more information and regular updates please subscribe to my blog and come follow me on twitter @nic_prettysane and my Facebook account facebook.com/nicolaprettysane

Keep Shining On

Nic

xx

 

 

 

Mental Health Stigma Schizophrenia in the Media

4 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I totally agree…the news always mentions when a person accused of a crime has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. I think it’s disgusting…first at least educate your journalists…let them spend time around people with schizophrenia of all different levels..24/7 for a period of time. Make them go to local NAMI family support groups and hear what families go through trying to get their loved ones help. Let them meet accomplished physicians and psychiatrists and lawyers, etc woth this illness. Become educated on it before you throw your biased opinion out there to negatively influence the public.

    Like

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