We often hear about celebrities with addictions from various news outlets.
Addiction and mental health issues can affect anyone. In fact, about 19% of all U.S. adults have dealt or are currently dealing with a mental illness, according to a national survey held by SAMHSA in 2017.
The Role of Media in Drug Abuse
It has been shown that the media contributes to the stigma
of mental illness through poor language choice, shocking or comical images and exaggerated
and inaccurate portrayals.
Dozens of research studies conclude that the type of news
coverage presented affects the likelihood of drug abuse and suicide in
The media disservices the public when mental health issues are presented dramatically. Untreated drug and alcohol abuse, mental health disorders and death are public health issues.
Is the Media Glamorizing Mental Illness?
One professional study
found that young people have over 250 labels used to stigmatize people with
mental illness. The media propagating these labels sensationalizes and
glamorizes the pain families go through when a loved one dies from mental
illness. Some journalists even degrade victims of suicide with language like
“crazed” or “disturbed”.
The personal stories of celebrity overdoses and the promotion of anorexia, among other things, are glamorized on social media with widespread images and hashtags. Romanticizing stories of overdose and self-harm is influential.
What Are the Repercussions of Sensationalized Reporting?
When a repetitious story describes the method of suicide in
explicit terms, the risk for individual suicide increases.
This sensationalized dispersion of information, though
skewed, has many believing people with mental illness are violent.
Actually, people struggling to deal with mental issues are statistically less
likely to commit violent acts than people without mental illness. In fact, many
people suffer mentally because of the
violence and abuse they have suffered at the hands of someone else.
Roadblocks to Recovery
It can be hard to get treated for mental health and
addiction issues for a number of reasons, like:
- Availability or access to quality services
- Not knowing where to start
- The illness itself preventing the energy or
motivation necessary to seek treatment
But perhaps the most stifling reason people don’t get medical treatment is the pervasive stigma around mental health.