Hollywood’s Plan to Change Minds on Mental Illness

21 Aug

1st. article in our 5 week series on Hollywood & Mental Health

Let’s face it. Hollywood gets a bad rap when it comes to Mental Health concerns in America. This article will spotlight how Hollywood is playing a significant role in changing the stigma associated with mental illness and look into how these stigmas get manifested in society.

The unemployment rate for people with mental illness ranges from 70 to 90 percent. According to a government study, in 2010 about 40 percent of the 11.4 million adults with serious mental illness went untreated. Only one out of five children with diagnosable psychiatric disorders receives any treatment at all. The top two reasons were inability to afford mental care and the stigma of admitting psychiatric illness and seeking help.[1]

Where Does Stigma Derive From?

According to an article Stigma of Mental Illness Robs Children of Treatment by Gregory K. Fritz he states, “Mental illness is arguably the most stigmatized condition in our country today.”

Stigma derives from the ancient Greek practice of burning or cutting the body to visibly mark a person deemed to be objectionable in some way. The roots of stigma are in human fear or ignorance. Our society uses pejorative labels (“crazy,” “retard,” “psycho”) that are associated with stereotypes (for example, that mental illness leads to incompetence, violence, unpredictability or deviance).

Embracing stereotypes is the precursor to prejudice against the mentally ill, the behavioral manifestations of which are seen in societal discrimination: isolation or extrusion of children with psychiatric disorders, employment or educational discrimination, etc. “Self stigma” refers to an individuals’ internalization of societal beliefs and prejudices — resulting in lower self-esteem, limited aspirations, secrecy, anxiety and treatment avoidance.[2]

Hollywood called to Help

This past June, President Obama held a White House summit, with Vice President Joe Biden, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The goal of the summit was to start a national conversation about mental health, removing any stigma around it so afflicted people will feel free to seek help. They were joined by two entertainment industry leaders with personal connections to mental health issues: Glenn Close and the president of the National Association of Broadcasters, Gordon Smith.[3]

Close, who co-founded the nonprofit awareness group Bring Change 2 Mind, has said she first became aware of mental health problems when she starred in Fatal Attraction in 1987. Her sister Jessie grew up with severe bouts of depression and tried to commit suicide several times before being diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. Her nephew Calen has also been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.

Smith, a former U.S. Senator from Oregon, wrote about his son’s suicide at age 22 in his 2006 book, Remembering Garrett: One Family’s Battle With A Child’s Depression. While in the Senate, Smith also helped get passed the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act to help fight the problem of youth suicide.”

Earlier this month the Entertainment Industries Council (EIC) held an event on a studio lot in California for scriptwriters, producers, directors, performers and execs. Along with panels of experts, the producers, studios and networks were offered a toolkit and resources in both English and Spanish – including story ideas – provided by TEAM Up (Tools for Entertainment and Media).

According to Brian Dyak, the EIC’s president and ceo,

Inaccurate portrayals of individuals living with mental illness can fuel misconceptions that could lead to subsequent discrimination and deter individuals from seeking help for mental health challenges.”

Do you think Hollywood could help change the stigmas often associated with mental illness?


17 Responses to “Hollywood’s Plan to Change Minds on Mental Illness”

  1. Open Book August 22, 2013 at 6:55 PM #

    Hi Everyone!

    • ComicRelief August 22, 2013 at 7:30 PM #

      Hi OB,

      I really enjoyed the article. Aside from being informative I’m glad Hollywood is taking their representational responsibilities seriously. Though not organized when doing this, obviously they have made mistakes in the past.

      • Open Book August 22, 2013 at 8:23 PM #

        Hi CR!

        Can u name a few mistakes HW has made in the past regarding this issue?

        • ComicRelief August 23, 2013 at 1:29 PM #

          Take your pick,…

        • ComicRelief August 23, 2013 at 1:41 PM #

        • ComicRelief August 23, 2013 at 1:50 PM #

  2. Open Book August 22, 2013 at 7:03 PM #


    “It is common sense to realize that the same foods that affect your body will affect your brain. If you keep a healthy body, you will keep a healthy brain. But we are only just beginning to understand how the brain as an organ is influenced by the nutrients from the foods we eat and how diets have an impact on our mental health.”

    Given the obesity rate do u think good nutrition might lower the mental health problems today?

  3. Open Book August 22, 2013 at 7:16 PM #

    Do u think Hollywood can change the minds of people if they are unhealthy? In “Silver Lining Playbook” Bradley Cooper portrayed someone with bipolar disorder. He was on medication but they also discussed him changing his diet and loosing weight as treatment. Do u think HW should show not only the before treatments but after as well?

  4. Open Book August 22, 2013 at 7:20 PM #

    Why do u think “Silver Lining Playbook” did so well at the box office given the stigma toward mental illness?

  5. ozzie20 August 22, 2013 at 7:45 PM #

    Hi Everyone! 🙂

    Very informative article, OB!

    • Open Book August 22, 2013 at 8:20 PM #

      Hi Ozzie!

      Thank u!

    • ComicRelief August 22, 2013 at 8:35 PM #

      Hi Ozzie,

      I have a physically challenged friend who used to claim one of the ironic justices of being an apathetic member of our community is you never know when or whether you will become a member of mentally Ill or another challenged community. The memberships of those groups seem to grow every day.

      • Open Book August 24, 2013 at 3:11 PM #

        “you never know when or whether you will become a member of mentally Ill or another challenged community. The memberships of those groups seem to grow every day.”

        True! Not to be callous but the notion that we can wave away our difficulties by calling them mental “illnesses” and taking drugs is also a destructive and stigmatizing philosophy which undermines the value of human life. The message is that as a species we no longer have to strive to overcome life’s vicissitudes. Just take a pill. It just breeds a culture of codependents.

        • Open Book August 24, 2013 at 3:20 PM #

          Furthermore, I know the friend u are referring to and what I admire about him is his incredible confidence and disposition. Once u get to know him u forget about his physical handicap because of his attitude which does not define him or hold him back.

  6. Open Book August 22, 2013 at 8:41 PM #

    According to Psychology Today they state;

    “Audiences are fascinated by heartless murderers, tragic heros or heroines wrestling with psychological demons, couples who tear each other apart, and families that make their home life a constant nightmare. Whether frightening or at times hilarious, Hollywood’s dramatization of the psychological life of its characters is what keeps us glued to the screen.”

    Given HW needs to keep us entertained. How can they do this without exaggerating situations? Many moviegoers complained about Bradley Coopers portrayal of bipolar disorder in “Silver Lining Playbook” claiming he over exaggerated and looked like a child throwing a temper tantrum. What do u think? Can HW movies still get our attention and be accurate depicting a characters mental health?

  7. Open Book August 22, 2013 at 8:46 PM #


    I have to go but will be back tomorrow to answer questions and comments.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: