Thisessay will focus on mental health – depression, and how the issue of depressionhas and is perceived throughout societytoday. One of the first things I need to address is the meaning of term’depression’; “Depressionis a common mental disorder that causes people to experience depressed mood,loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbedsleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration”. (Mental HealthFoundation, n.
d.). A survey by ‘mental health and well-being (NHS) states; ‘Onein three adults (37 percent) aged 16-74,with conditions such as anxiety or depression, surveyed in England, wereaccessing mental health treatment in 2014’ (Content.digital.nhs.uk,2015) For this essay I will bereviewing all quantitative and qualitative data from all legitimate sources tofind how depression is portrayed, stigmatised and stereotyped in the media and how it influences the mental health ofindividuals. Sources will include websites such as Facebook and Instagram, allnewspaper media sources and blogs, journals and magazines.
Depression was first recognised as an illness in the 1950’s as acomplex issue, which can affect personal identity, the forming of friendships,social interaction and can cause an individual to become completely isolated.Mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental disorder in the UK with9/10 people with a mental health problem experiencing stigma and discriminationbecause of their illness. Peopleview it as a weakness of mind, a melodramatic illness where you are supposed to’snap out of it’ or ‘get a grip’, which is easier said than done. Mostpeople have no idea of what depression or anxiety is and they gain informationon mental health through sources of the media and the way the media portraysit. The difference is the reality of mental illness is nothing like what themedia makes it out to be. The media is persuasive in enforcing what informationthey wish to give to the public, and it seems that rather than embrace anddiscuss anxiety and depression as a common issue, it would rather glamorise itand be over-dramatic in the way it distorts the image of the condition, paintsa negative picture so-to-speak, also, the media can be blamed for adding to thestigma of mental illness. We have all watched films that are misleading thewatcher into believing that a psychiatric patient is ‘extremely dangerous’ oris a potential ‘killer’, or that having the illness will render them dumb (anddumber) and that Forrest Gump is a complete ‘loony’ which is far from thetruth. But, these films are designed to get the desired effect, which the co-operation’s require to capitalise on the issue.
On the other hand, films as of late havetried to represent a mental illness such as depression more accurately, onefilm comes to mind called ‘the Soloist’ which gives a better insight into themind of an individual who has a mental illness but is a brilliant musician,though a good film it still doesn’t delve into the reasons why humans are likethat and, how serious the illness is.The representation of mentalillness in national newspapers, deeply suggest that people who have a mentalillness are dangerous, mad, crazy or unpredictable. An article in The DailyMail in 2015 grabbed the headlines with ‘ why on earth was he allowed to fly?’ ‘Suicide pilot had a long history of depression’ (Williams, 2015).
The objectiveof this article was to stigmatisedepression and anxiety for all the negative reasons. A quote from the samearticle stated; “Today’sheadlines risk adding to the stigma surrounding mental health problems, whichmillions of people experience each year, and we would encourage the media toreport this issue responsibly.”.Over the last 20 years, society has changed dramatically withthe introduction of the internet and social media. There are many internet domainswhich people use to keep in contact with friends, colleagues and family memberssuch as Facebook and Instagram which when used in the right way or context canbe great but it can also be a way of sizing up, or comparing the way anotherperson’s way of life is lived against theirs, causing envy, bitterness orsadness and may advocate bullying and threats against other people includingracism, discrimination, and violence. Astudy by Psychology Today Quote;”the majority of social media users tend to edit and post only their mostattractive pictures, or ‘put a rose-tinted gloss over their lives’ in an effortto idealise themselves and, researchersbelieve, to improve others’ impressions of them”. (Abrams, 2017).
There are many different cultures and religions in the UK and they havetheir own attitudes and beliefs on mental health and also where mental health issues derive from. The Asiancommunity in particular, if a family member has a mental health illness then itcan be seen to ‘bring shame’ to that family. Mental health problems are also related to inequality, deprivation,poverty and other social and economic issues that can determine mental health.Economic crises are therefore times of high risk to the mental well-being ofthe population and of the people affected and their families.
The economy also has an effect on a person’smental health, for example, a middle-class family where both parents bringhome a relatively good income would not have the same stresses as a low-class family whose income is less than the national average. The public’s attitude towardsmental illness is broadly negative but, a recent report which was funded by theDepartment of Health (DOH) in the UK, and commissioned by the anti-stigmaprogramme Time to Change, wantedto change the public’s perception of mental health, including depression. The Government proposed a strategy that said theywanted to keep people well and improve their mental health and also, to stopthe discrimination and stigma that is associated with the issue.
A survey wastaken in England to try to establish what public opinions of mental health werefrom 1994-2012. The aim of the survey was to monitor the changes in people’sattitude towards mental health as a whole and on a personal basis. Thestatistics have shown that in the last few decades more people are aware ofwhat mental health issues are, and it shows that more and more people arebeginning to accept and understand how to deal with an issue.
Time to changesurvey results stated that:”Results show significant increases in the proportion of people who saythey would be: willing to continue a relationship with a friend with a mentalhealth problem (4% increase); willing to work with someone with a mental healthproblem (6% increase); and willing to live nearby someone with a mental healthproblem (5% increase). These increases were particularly significant in thelast year (2011 to 2012).” (Time To Change, 2013). It is knownthat nationally 3.5 million peole have a better understanding of ssues thatsurround mental health but, mental health charities said that there is still alot of work still be done to further improve the public views.
The governmenthas issued warnings to media companies to change the way that they arenegatively portraying mental health illness and the DOH reports that changesare finally being made to stop negative perceptions and promote moredescriptions of mental health in a more truthful and positive way. It seems tobe changing and according to the time for change director, Sue Baker; “Attitudestowards mental health issues are finally beginning to move in the rightdirection. Deep-seated prejudices are starting to shift and it’s a further signthat we are heading towards a tipping point in England and that there is a realappetite for change.” (O’Hara, 2009) Though it seems there is still a prejudiceand stigma surrounding it at least it is being recognised.What needs to be looked arethe factors that may influence or change the views, attitudes, beliefs, andculture towards mental health.
The government has set legislation There are anumber of charities and services that provide information and support to peoplewho have a mental health issue, such as; Mind, Rethink mental illness, Togetherand Young minds. The UK government mental health service reform policy