This the discussion of “cinematherapy” which I had

This article was extremely beneficial
for my research as it supported my initial thoughts towards the portrayal of
mental illness in films and television programmes that the general consensus is
often “negative and based on erroneous beliefs (Jorm, 2000) “It explores
that the non-fiction works often stigmatise those with mental illness and
represents them often as dangerous or violent which supports other sources I
have analysed. The article details how what we view on screen is particularly
damaging for those watching and those already suffering from mental illness and
it presents them as different from other characters and often get labelled with
damaging labels such as “psycho” and “loony” which trivialise such damaging
conditions . The public perception will be particularly negative and even be as
damaging to affect those with mental illness in seeking the appropriate and
much needed help. The literature review explores the idea that whilst the
portrayals can be used as form of entertainment, there needs to be a much
higher level of sensitivity in regards to how these illness are shown. If
people from television and film companies were to work closely with those that
have the expertise in mental health and create material that can be positive in
creating awareness and educating those that may not know better. It can also
work to counteract those portrayals already out there that are inherently
negative and further the stigma surrounding mental illness. An element which I
found extremely interesting was the discussion of “cinematherapy” which I had
not come across before but shows that film can used with specific cases
involving patients and have the industry promote real positive change which
should really be in their minds when creating such portrayals and not just box
office success or awards which I also looked at the Otto Wahl book.

Ron Roberts’s book is very important
because of the detail in goes into in regards to how it examines psychiatry and
the role it plays in cinema. Roberts discusses how film plays a particularly
important viewpoint into our society at the time and even us and the way in
which we live. As with the Extent, Nature, and Impacts article he
discusses how what the audience views on the big screen (in regards to
practices and treatment of mental illness) is often a reflection of how we
regard it at the time and helps to shape an audiences ability to understand
such topics. I particularly found this book helpful because of how Roberts
looks at not just cinematic psychiatry but real psychiatry too and its
treatment of women and ethnic minorities which was an area I initially wanted
to look at closely as many of the films I had been studying involved heterosexual
white men at its core. He examines several important films such as “A Beautiful Mind (2001)” and
throws his own thoughts which helped to make me look at this material in a new
perspective and highlight certain inaccuracies. For example with this film,
John Nash stated that he never voluntary entered a mental hospital which the
film depicts, this shows that with many films that deal with mental illness the
filmmakers may often taken creative liberties in order to present a
desensitised version of the truth in order to show a more user friendly and shy
away from the ugly side. Roberts’s use of analysis helps the reader to separate
the reality within in the fiction of what we view and avoid a sense of
falsehood which perhaps many audience members may fall into as they take what
they view on the screen as reality.

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In this
article Vera Chouinard examines the Hollywood film, Girl Interrupted
(1999) and looks at the ‘cultural narratives of the lives and places’ of women
with mental illness. This article has helped me to think more broadly in terms
of feminist perspectives and various types of conceptual ideas such as
Cresswell 1996 who discusses how cultural constructions of otherness have been
used to bring attention to if people either belong or don’t. This is especially
important in gaining an insight into how women, in particular, are viewed and especially from the limited social
geographic literature concerned with the lives of persons with mental illness.
It examines how we, as the viewer, engage with particular depictions of the
‘mad woman’ in film and post-modern constructions of the ‘monstrous’ shape our
understanding of different ways of being a ‘mad’ woman and of where women who
perform madness in various types of ways belong. The monstrous aspect comes
from the fact that women are supposed to “motherly” and “caring” and any
behaviour which does not conform to this is inherently “wrong”. Vera also looks
at the cultural representations of the identities, lives, and geographical
location of a persons with mental illness. The most common of this being that
those who are mentally ill pose a threat to others, are villainous, evil and
prone to violence, with research showing that 67% of those who were depicted as
mentally ill prone to violent attacks. Again, this article helped me to focus
more directly on women with mental illness and how there is a particular gender
stereotype. Women depicted with mental illness fit into a certain place in
society which in Girl Interrupted is the asylum which literally shut them away
from society and in particular men. As made evident by Girl Interrupted, there
is a complex discursive negotiations of meaning, and gendered processes of
meaning-making. In some ways this only help to reaffirm mad women’s lives and
in others perpetuate negative stereotypes about women with mental illness and
where they belong.

“For better or worse, movies and
television contribute significantly to shaping the public’s perception of the
mentally ill and those who treat them”.- Steven E. Hyler. The book uses this
quote which I feel is incredibly important and helped shaped my ideas for my
research. Whether or not the depictions are positive or negative, any type of
portrayal shapes peoples’ perceptions and creates debate and discussion which
is extremely important in going forward. Throughout the book, Wedding and
Niemiec provide extremely useful and detailed sources of films featuring mental
illnesses and highlight the importance that film can have in teaching students
engaging with psychiatry and garnering an audience response from those who
perhaps may be not as engaged with such studies. The book itself has gone
through numerous editions which has proven necessary as dozens of new films
have been released each depicting various types of mental illness in more
successful ways than others previous. For example, the addition of Michael Haneke’s
Amour (2012) is needed because
of how it deals with Alzheimer’s, they argue that he captures the “raw emotion
and a vivid power that can never be had by simply reading about neuropathology”
this show the need for film to tackle such subjects and the need for it be
achieved with a level of sensitivity. This point is consistently put forward
that certain films such as Silver
Linings Playbook (which deals with bipolar disorder) provide a rich
intensity which lectures and written work cannot and as more time and understanding
is given to such illness this will come through in how contemporary films handle
their depictions.

In Otto Wahl’s’ book, he looks at
mental illness in American media covering a twenty year time span. From his studies
he concludes that a dominant theme which is repeated throughout is that many
murderers and aggressive characters are those seen as suffering with mental
illness and even when they’re not “evil” characters rarely are they shown with
any degree of sympathy. Wahl also notes how, even the physical way in which
they’re presented is often in a very “other” type of way and they’re made to
look unconventional which cause them to stand out. He even notes they are often
showed as unemployed, unmarried and lonely which is significant because it
causes the audience to view them with a lack of humanity as they are rarely seen
as three dimensional. He also picks up on how various Oscar winners have won
for roles which depict “mentally ill characters” such as Anthony Hopkins,
Dustin Hoffman and Ingrid Bergman so it could be seen that the actors will try
for such parts because they often result in personal career gain such as critical
claim and result in award success. Whilst it could be beneficial for bringing
awareness to a mainstream audience, they are often done because they can be
seen as good material for actors to showcase their ability. An important
element of this research to note is that it was published in 1997, whilst it
does not reflect contemporary characters with mental illness it is important,
especially for my research, to see the progressive journey that has been made
and the breakthroughs in regards to more positive and rounded portrayals. The book
is most definitely a reflection of the times and shows a lack of understanding
from society from this period and whilst this still happens today, it is
considerably different.


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