Mental illnesses cannot be cured if the people suffering from them are shamed. In 2013, the average state only treated approximately 57% of people with mental illnesses. To provide help for these matters, such as psychopathy, sociopathy, feminism, eating disorders, depression, and anxiety, they must be socially accepted. The stigma surrounding important issues causes them to be difficult to discuss, including with people who can assist the victims of mental illnesses. Negative views on mental illnesses, disorders and social issues are caused by the media such as books, movies, and social media. The media stereotypes and portrays mental illnesses and social issues in a false way, glamorizing them and spreading this unreliable information, keeping important subjects from getting the attention they deserve.
Many people use the words ‘psychopaths’ and ‘sociopaths’ to describe serial killers or people who do crazy things. According to humanologyproject these terms are not professionally recognized for diagnosis. They do not have much meaning. Psychopaths and sociopaths are used to describe individuals who show symptoms of Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD). People showed in the media who may have ASPD are labeled as a “psychopaths”, but this degrades them to an exaggerated stereotype.
The representation of people with ASPD affects not only how we see them, but how they see themselves. These terms loosely used throughout the media reinforce the idea to people actually suffering from ASPD that this is how they should behave, and that their lives will follow the same paths as the characters they see or read about. There are many misconceptions about psychopaths. To clarify, they are not insane, do not have hallucinations, and not all are psychotic. Not all mass murderers are psychopaths. In fact, most mentally ill people are not violent (only 3%-5% are), but the way the media covers these events makes them seem like weekly occurrences. Many parts of ASPD are still unclear due to the belief created by exaggerated stories through the media claiming it is unpreventable, untreatable, and an excuse for crimes. Contrary to popular belief, ASPD patients are aware of their own thoughts and actions and know society’s rights and wrongs- they just do not concern them.
Feminism is another controversial issue seen as taboo and an unspoken word. The definition of feminism, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes”. The myth about feminism is that females are superior and hate men. According to thesocietypages, only 26% of people in America say ‘feminist’ is a positive term. Anti-feminists are people who are against gender equality. Anti-feminists spread propaganda portraying feminists as ugly, masculine, neglecting their ‘natural role as a mother’, not caring for their children, angry, emasculating men, are rude to husbands, may not marry at all, and want to dominate men altogether. These misconceptions have been around for and are still spread and believed throughout the media to this day.
Another issue that is not portrayed accurately is eating disorders. Eating disorders are beautified. The lives of people who suffer from them are glamorized in the media, to such an extent, that they are desirable. People mistake eating disorders as a skinny girl, shyly refusing sweets offered to her or willpower and strength. Unrealistic beauty standards develop eating disorders; the media shows incredibly thin female models and male models with muscles and abs which adds to unhealthy conformity. It is important to know that companies edit these models to make them seem much more “attractive”(Johnston, 31), even though these features do not equal attractiveness.
Exposure to the idea of the importance of being thin can cause people to shame their own body, then develop eating disorders, or begin harmful dieting. Online, posts about skipping meals to be skinnier and promoting these beauty standards cause negative self-image and dissatisfaction. There are also a lot of stigmas, or marks of shame, surrounding eating disorders. Talking about them respectfully with the victims of these disorders will reduce it. It is a common belief that people with eating disorders develop and/or use them to draw attention to themselves. But victims often feel ashamed and try to cover up the illness instead. They fear that the stigma surrounding the illnesses will negatively reflect them.
Another controversial issue that is romanticized by the media is mental disorders. Many posts spread throughout the media express the idea that “there is something very romantic about self-destruction” which is wrong. These posts degrade mentally ill people and create an appealing and attractive image of the victims. Silent suffering is seen as beautiful instead of destructive. Depression is thought of as being sad when that is not the reality of it. It is not having the motivation and energy to get out of bed, wanting to be with friends but pushing them away at the same time, and comparing yourself to people on the internet. It is canceling plans last minute because you could not find the strength to get out of your house and being observant.
Anxiety also has false information widely spread throughout the internet. Anxiety is depicted as being shy or worrying. But it is actually not being able to sleep due to overthinking, irrational fears, and thinking and caring too much. Anxiety is unanswered texts that kill you, constant apologizing, and trying too hard to please people. People with anxiety are not weak and their illness does not always develop from a faulty childhood. Anxiety is not something to be dismissed either, and people who suffer from it should not avoid it. Mental illnesses are not, and never will be glamorous, no matter what the media shows.
False information spread by the media about mental health and social issues negatively impact our lives. They keep serious topics from getting the awareness they need. Psychopathy, sociopathy, feminism, eating disorders, depression, anxiety are all victims of these stereotypes. Destroying the stigma and stereotypes about these serious matters, shapes the acceptability for society.