How Does Media Impact Stigmas of Mental Illness and Addiction?

How Does Media Impact Stigmas of Mental Illness and Addiction?

If you were to reflect back on any of the movies or television shows that you’ve seen that have involved mental illness or addiction, what depicted imagery would come to mind? For years, media has portrayed both that bring a number of negative keywords to mind: lazy, lonely, theft, crazy, dangerous and more. It all seems harmless when you’re at home or in the movie theater sitting in your seat, but time and time again, studies have shown us that these depictions actually have a real impact on our mindset. They add a layer of perception that may not have been there before – especially if we don’t personally know anyone with an addiction or mental illness with whom to compare inaccuracies with.

For those who gain their information on these populations without knowing the hard facts, it’s tempting to become fearful and even downright cruel – depictions make us feel like those who struggle with addiction or mental illness should be viewed as the “other”, but we’re all human here – and the media tends to make us forget that. Back in 2015, researchers emphasized that social stigma on mental illness and addiction leads to a number of unfortunate outcomes:

  • Discrimination
  • Poor health
  • Poor social outcomes, such as trouble finding secure housing and employment

On the opposite end, research has shown that social support is vital for a person to seek and work through recovery; if our social perspectives are judgmental and biased yet these individuals need support in order to improve their conditions, how could this harsh treatment possibly serve any good? The reality is, it can’t – and it doesn’t.

Media tells us stories and it’s up to us to identify whether or not those stories are fact or fiction. When we easily take in whatever information is presented to us, we run the risk of believing something that isn’t entirely true – which could cause us to perpetuate a harsh cycle of hatred and negativity for no reason. Sure, there are people with addiction or mental illness out there who have been violent – but there are just as many, if not more, people with these conditions that are only harmful to themselves. It’s natural that as a society, we fear what we don’t know – but we have to push those boundaries and force ourselves to understand that each person is different, and each person deserves a chance at love and respect. Perhaps if we took on this perspective, we’d be able to help more people.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.

Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.