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Mental Health Representation in Movies and TV Shows

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Dissociative Identity Disorder:

Hollywood Mental Health Representation Grade: F

Norman Bates in Psycho is one of the most famous examples. The mentally ill Bates is driven to murder beautiful young women… while dressed as his own (dead) mother.

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Schizophrenia:

Hollywood Mental Health Representation Grade: D+

On the small screen, Criminal Minds featured a dozen villains with schizophrenia. However, main character Spencer Reid’s mother, Diana (played by Jane Lynch) also suffers from schizophrenia and is institutionalized.

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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder:

Hollywood Mental Health Representation Grade: C-

OCD almost always equals “neat freak”, Monica Geller from Friends is a prime example. She obsessively cleans her apartment—something that her friends and family find exasperating but funny. The audience is supposed to find it funny, too.

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Bipolar Disorder

Hollywood Mental Health Representation Grade: C

Silver Linings Playbook (2012) stars Bradley Cooper as Pat, a man with bipolar disorder who has recently been released from a mental health facility. The movie shows Pat refusing to take his medication and implies that the characters’ love for each other saved them.

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Depression:

Hollywood Mental Health Representation Grade: B-

13 Reasons Why (2017) received an avalanche of critical praise after it premiered, but mental health advocates were concerned that it glamorized suicide. It also treated Hannah Baker’s trauma and death as something that happened to the main character, Clay Jensen, and treated her suicide as a puzzle to be solved.

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Depression:

Hollywood Mental Health Representation Grade: B-

The Pixar movie Inside Out does an outstanding job of showing what depression is like. Depression is often depicted as overwhelming sadness, but it’s more accurate to describe it as numbness or detachment. It’s one of the best and most accurate representations of mental health in all of Hollywood.

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