This essay will focus on mental health – depression, and how the issue of depression has, and is perceived throughout society today. One of the first things I need to address is the meaning of term ‘depression’; “Depression is a common mental disorder that causes people to experience depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration”. (Mental Health Foundation, n.d.). A survey by ‘mental health and well-being (NHS) states; ‘One in three adults (37 per cent) aged 16-74, with conditions such as anxiety or depression, surveyed in England, were accessing mental health treatment in 2014’ (Content.
digital.nhs.uk, 2015) For this essay I will be reviewing all quantitative and qualitative data from all legitimate sources to find how depression is portrayed, stigmatised and stereo-typed in the media and how it influences the mental health of individuals. Sources will include websites such as Facebook and Instagram, all newspaper media sources and blogs, journals and magazines. Media & Depression Depression was first recognised as an illness in the 1950’s as a complex 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 with 9/10 people with a mental health problem experiencing stigma and discrimination because of their illness. People view 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. Most people have no idea of what depression or anxiety is and they gain information on mental health through sources of the media and the way the media portrays it. The difference is the reality of mental illness is nothing like what the media makes it out to be. The media is persuasive in enforcing what information they wish to give to the public, and it seems that rather than embrace and discuss anxiety and depression as a common issue, it would rather glamorise it and be over-dramatic in the way it distorts the image of the condition, paints a negative picture so-to-speak, also, the media can be blamed for adding to the stigma of mental illness. We have all watched films that are misleading the watcher into believing that a psychiatric patient is ‘extremely dangerous’ or is a potential ‘killer’, or that having the illness will render them dumb (and dumber) and that Forrest Gump is a complete ‘loony’ which is far from the truth. But, these films are designed to get the desired effect, which the co-operations require to capitalise on the issue. On the other hand, films as of late have tried to represent a mental illness such as depression more accurately, one film comes to mind called ‘the Soloist’ which gives a better insight into the mind 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 like that and, how serious the illness is.
The representation of mental illness in national newspapers, deeply suggest that people who have a mental illness are dangerous, mad, crazy or unpredictable. An article in The Daily Mail in 2015 grabbed the headlines with ‘ why on earth was he allowed to fly?’ ‘Suicide pilot had long history of depression’ (Williams, 2015). The objective of this article was to stigmatise depression and anxiety for all the negative reasons.
A quote from the same article stated; “Today’s headlines risk adding to the stigma surrounding mental health problems, which millions of people experience each year, and we would encourage the media to report this issue responsibly.”. Over the last 20 years society has changed dramatically with the introduction of the internet and social media. There are many internet domains which people use to keep in contact with friends, colleagues and family members such as Facebook and Instagram which when used in the right way or context can be great but it can also be a way of sizing up, or comparing the way another person’s way of life is lived against theirs, causing envy, bitterness or sadness and may advocate bullying and threats against other people including racism, discrimination and violence. A study by Psychology Today Quote; “the majority of social media users tend to edit and post only their most attractive pictures, or ‘put a rose-tinted gloss over their lives’ in an effort to idealise themselves and, researchers believe, to improve others’ impressions of them”. (Abrams, 2017).
There are many different cultures and religions in the UK and they have their own attitudes and beliefs on mental health and also where metal health issues derive from. The Asian community in particular, if a family member has a mental health illness then it can be seen to ‘bring shame’ to that family. It is well known that mental health problems are related to deprivation, poverty, inequality and other social and economic determinants of health. Economic crises are therefore times of high risk to the mental well-being of the population and of the people affected and their families. The economy also has an affect on a persons mental health, for example a middle class family where both parents bring home a relatively good income would not have the same stresses as a low class family who’s income is less than the national average The public’s attitude towards mental illness is broadly negative but, a recent report which was funded by the Department of Health (DOH) in the UK, and commissioned by the anti-stigma programme Time to Change, wanted to change the public’s perception of mental health, including depression.
The Government proposed a strategy that said they wanted to keep people well and improve their mental health and also, to stop the discrimination and stigma that is associated with the issue. A survey was taken in England to try to establish what public opinions of mental health were from 1994-2012. The aim of the survey was to monitor the changes in people’s attitude towards mental health as a whole and on a personal basis. The statistics have shown that in the last few decades more people are aware of what mental health issues are, and it shows that more and more people are beginning to accept and understand how to deal with an issue. Time to change survey results stated that: “Results show significant increases in the proportion of people who say they would be: willing to continue a relationship with a friend with a mental health problem (4% increase); willing to work with someone with a mental health problem (6% increase); and willing to live nearby someone with a mental health problem (5% increase).
These increases were particularly significant in the last year (2011 to 2012).” (Time To Change, 2013). What needs to be looked are the factors that may influenced or changed the views, attitudes, belief’s and culture towards mental health. There are a number of charities and services that provide information and support to people who have a mental health issue, such as; Mind, Rethink mental illness, Together and Young minds. The UK government mental health service reform policy