Films display varying representations of mental illness

by Student Writer Rachel Daniel

Mental health is an issue some people are afraid to discuss because it is a sensitive topic, but the film industry brings this topic to the forefront with certain movies.

The trailer of the 2017 movie “Split” shows the main character, who has multiple personalities, as the villain of the story. This movie, along with others, can sometimes show mental illness in a negative manner.

Movies can stigmatize mental health, said Andrea Hunt, assistant professor of sociology.

“Characters of mental illnesses tend to be framed as villainous and crazy,” she said. “This can be damaging to those people dealing with mental illnesses who are shamed and stigmatized because of it and may affect whether someone seeks treatment or not.”

These portrayals can make others in society unsure of how to interact with those with a mental illness, said sophomore Jaimy Murff.

“Portrayals of mental illnesses in movies are not that accurate,” he said. “They are sacrificing the seriousness of the actual illness to make profits.”

However, Hunt said some movies get it right, and movie viewers are beginning to see more accurate and humanized representations.

Depiction of mental illness depends on the actors in the movie, said Richard Hudiburg, department chair of psychology.

“Hollywood films are meant to entertain and gain profit,” he said. “It’s difficult for movies to display an accurate adaptation of mental illness. Some movies portray mental illnesses realistically, where other films get it wrong depending on the performance of the actors and how well they understand the role.”

There are several movies that have come out in the last few years regarding mental illnesses such as “Split,” “Inside Out” and “Starry Eyes,” Hudiburg said.

Hollywood has taken a step forward in making films that are very informative about mental illnesses, said senior Paige McCay. “Inside Out” is one movie that shows it in a positive light.

“This movie gives you a beautiful insight into the human mind that you can enjoy whether you are 6-years-old or 60-years-old,” she said.

Hudiburg said if people want to learn more about a mental illnesses, they should do their research.

“Films are somewhat limited because there is a short period of time to depict the whole truth,” he said. “This can make it very hard to get all true aspects of mental illness.”

The film industry is influential when it comes to mental illness portrayal, Hudiburg said.

“The way that film and media portrays any type of mental illness, whether it is bipolar disorder or alcoholism, is something that should be openly discussed,” he said.