“You know last day there was a serial coming up which had an autistic child in it. Oh my God! How she was making strange and grotesque faces. It just scared me. I can’t even imagine one like the person in front of me. Everyone in the house were frustrated with her. They were scolding and pushing her aside, but she would not control, but aggressively approached everyone only to hit them.”
This is a common picture given by most of our entertainment media (whether it is a film or a serial) about someone with mental challenge. Whatever the problem may be, he or she is made to appear helpless in plight and aggressive and abnormal is behaviour and expressions.
A person with mental health issues must have distorted unclear speech, must shout beyond the normal decibel levels, should hit everyone or attack in some way or the other, harm normal existence etc.
Such portrayals are dangerous; instead of creating an awareness about the mental challenge, such an image propagates further stigma on mental health irregularities.
Hence, whenever counselling is spoken about in society, generally people associate it with madness.
We consciously prefer to stay away from people suffering from difficult mental setups.
We are scared that they can harm us.
Even if our friend speaks about depression, or anxiety and considers its treatment, we prefer to exclude our self from the discussion, and if possible avoid that friend completely, thinking he or she is mad. This is harmful for us as well as our society. Our attitude leaves the needy friend alone to suffer with his/her state of confusion.
Even the treatment and counselling costs are expressed such via media, as if they are too expensive and unattainable by normal people which is not true. So ultimately, counselling can either be the whim of a rich brat, or required by the mad, as per societal portrayal.
Since we are engrossed in our stigma, we are incapable of viewing the truth about mental health and its problems.
As a result, we lose approximately 3000 people every year, to suicide, because they were suffering from typical mental pain but could not address it or opt for cure, because the society stigmatizes and mocks a person with mental health conflicts.
It is high time, that the media realizes their responsibility, and behave in a mature way towards a sensitive issue like mental health.
Media is a powerful source of developing public opinions be it on political, social and economic issues or health related problems. The media should be unbiased while discussing facts on mental ailments of people.
Media can be news, entertainment or social platform, and form and mode of information sharing are also different, hence filmmakers should stop showing a person with mental roadblocks, as helpless or harmful. They are neither of the two.
Framing is defined as the means by which media information is organized, presented and interpreted.
The frequently negative frames used by the media to portray mental illnesses contribute to the development and persistence of the public's negative attitudes toward persons with mental illnesses.
It would be much better if we could bring up examples from #History or #CelebrityDiaries to glorify the special abilities of specially-abled individuals.
For e.g. it would be so much better, if we could refer to Beethoven, who has been fighting with bipolar disorder, yet never abstained from making great music, or Deepika Padukone and J.K. Rowling who are great names on the planet today, and each of them has had their share of depressing moments, while addressing mental health and wellness.
There should be more movies like #Barfi and #TaareZameenPar which excavate the extra capabilities of a person with shortcomings, his or her ability to add humour to life and life to the earth, rather than constraining their abilities on screen, by showing them helpless, frustrated, and an ill element to life.
The role of media should be reformative, not restorative, as long as stigma on mental health issues are concerned.