Mental illness in fiction

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Works of fiction dealing with mental illness include:


Motion pictures[edit]

Many motion pictures portray mental illness in inaccurate ways, leading to misunderstanding and heightened stigmatization of the mentally ill. However, some movies are lauded for dispelling stereotypes and providing insight into mental illness. In a study by George Gerbner, it was determined that 5 percent of 'normal' television characters are murderers, while 20% of 'mentally-ill' characters are murderers. 40% of normal characters are violent, while 70% of mentally-ill characters are violent. Contrary to what is portrayed in films and television, Henry J. Steadman, Ph.D., and his colleagues at Policy Research Associates found that, overall, formal mental patients did not have a higher rate of violence than the control group of people who were not formal mental patients. In both groups, however, substance abuse was linked to a higher rate of violence. (Hockenbury and Hockenbury, 2004)


Many popular television shows feature characters with a mental health condition. Often these portrayals are inaccurate and reinforce existing stereotypes, thereby increasing stigma associated with having a mental health condition. Common ways that television shows can generate misunderstanding and fear are by depicting people with these conditions as medically noncompliant, violent, and/or intellectually challenged. However, in recent years certain organizations have begun to advocate for accurate portrayals of mental health conditions in the media, and certain television shows have been applauded by mental health organizations for helping to dispel myths of these conditions.

One show, Wonderland, went on the air in 2000 and only lasted several episodes. It was largely critically acclaimed, but pressure from mental health advocates and people with mental health conditions, who felt that the show perpetuated stereotypes and contributed to the stigma attached to them, led to the show's cancellation.

The Scandinavian crime drama The Bridge features multiple examples of mental illness, most prominently including Münchausen syndrome by proxy.

In 2005, the shows Huff, Monk, Scrubs and ER all won Voice Awards from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for their positive portrayal of people who manage mental health conditions. Neal Baer, executive producer of ER and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit also won a lifetime achievement award for his work in incorporating mental health issues into these two shows.

United States of Tara is a television show about Dissociative Identity Disorder that has since been cancelled.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The assumption of a clinical diagnosis of insanity has been repeatedly questioned in recent years, most notably by D. A. Boruchoff, who notes that in early modern times the concept of madness was associated with physical or moral displacement, as seen in the literal and figurative sense of the adjectives eccentric, deviant, extravagant, etc. See "On the Place of Madness, Deviance, and Eccentricity in Don Quijote,” Hispanic Review 70.1 (2002): 1–23,
  2. ^ "... 'Palata No. 6' (1892, Ward Number Six) is Chekhov's classical story of the abuse of psychiatry. Gromov is convinced that anyone can be imprisoned. He develops a persecution mania and is incarcerated in a horrific asylum, where he meets Doctor Ragin. Their relationship attracts attention and the doctor is tricked into becoming a patient in his own ward. He dies after being beaten by a charge hand. — The symmetrical story has much similarities with such works as Samuel Fuller's film The Shock Corridor (1963), and Ken Kesey's novel One Flew Over Cuckoo's Nest (1975). ..." (Source: Liukkonen, Petri. "Anton Chekhov". Books and Writers ( Finland: Kuusankoski Public Library. Archived from the original on 11 July 2010.). An online version of the story can be found at Project Gutenberg. [1]
  3. ^ Kent, Deborah (2003). Snake pits, talking cures & magic bullets: a history of mental illness. Twenty-First Century Books. p. 118. ISBN 0-7613-2704-5.
  4. ^ Nilo, mi hijo
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  22. ^ Challenger Deep, by Neal Shusterman, 2015 National Book Award Winner, Young People's Literature,
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  24. ^ Perkowitz, S. (2007). Hollywood science: movies, science, and the end of the world. Columbia University Press. p. 192. ISBN 0-231-14280-3.
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