Usually, mental illnesses alongside other physical disabilities and additions are prone to stigma. This issue is generally not given proper redress due to the sensitive and delicate nature of talking about these. According to one expert on the subject,
“For those living with mental illness, the stigma imposed upon them in society can lead to a lack of funding for services and public education, difficulty in finding employment, or in getting a mortgage, or even holiday insurance. Ultimately, the silence and lack of understanding about mental illness encourages feelings of shame, and discourages people to seek treatment or even to admit that symptoms they may be experiencing may be related to a mental illness.” (Lieberman, 2007).
Research has also indicated that the popular mainstream media shares the blame for propagating myths and stereotypes associated with mental illnesses. For example, a study found that nearly three fourths of the people with mental disorders felt that the media coverage is generally “unfair, unbalanced and negative” in its portrayal of mental illnesses. Many of the participants of the study also felt that other people behaved in a hostile manner toward them as a result of the media influence (both print and electronic mediums) (Jamison, 2006).
If the portrayal of celebrity stories in the media shows such ignorance and insensitivity on part of the popular media, then the plight of the ordinary people is all the more intense. The media also tends to indicate that mental illnesses somehow contribute to violent crimes in the society. A renowned media expert asserts that use of indignation inducing language seen in the media can “discourage people from seeking the help they need, because they are afraid of being viewed this way. This kind of irresponsible coverage also promotes the idea that mental illness is something to be ashamed of”. This is where the general public need to show their solidarity with the mentally ill and demand higher standards from the media corporations. For example, it is common to see charitable organizations bringing to notice irresponsible reporting on mental health issues. In a similar vein, members of the general public should also write to the editors and producers of media content so that mental illnesses get an unbiased and empathetic portrayal.
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