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article imageStudy: TV portrays misleading image of mental illness

By Lynn Curwin     Nov 22, 2010 in Entertainment
Almost half of the television characters with mental illness are portrayed as being dangerous to others, a study commissioned by the UK Department of Health has found.
"Fictional film characters like Hitchcock's Norman Bates in 'Psycho' have long established the idea of the 'mentally ill' as crazed and dangerous in the public mind; television has been doing the same thing for decades,” the BBC quoted Professor Greg Philo, who led the research, as saying.
"Great progress has been made in recent years, but we've some way to go before we see more of the everyday realities of living with a mental health problem properly represented and stereotypes like the axe-wielding maniac take a back seat."
The researchers found that there were sympathetic portrayals of characters with mental health issues on about half of the shows, but they were often the "tragic victim."
The Glasgow Media Group, working on behalf of the Shift campaign, examined popular dramas and comedies and found that 45 percent of story lines involving those with mental health issues showed them as a risk to others.
Paul Farmer, the chief executive of Mind, said that improvements on shows had come about because scriptwriters and programme producers involved people with personal experience of mental health problems in their research.
"It is also clear, however, that there is still much work to be done until we are at a stage where accurate depictions are the norm rather than the exception,” he added.
"I hope this report will encourage programme makers to follow these examples of good practice to create accurate, well-rounded characters that can improve perceptions of mental health."
More about Television, Mental, Illness, Health, Mentally
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