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Sensationalism and Misrepresentation Of Mental Illness By Today’s Media

In an effort to remove the stigma of mental illness, football players, athletes, models, celebrities, and entertainers are publicly acknowledging their mental illness. Though many cheer their openness, The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports:

“Mental illness is being both sensationalized and misrepresented by television and media. Sensationalizing mental illness can be harmful, especially for impressionable young teenagers. Those images of self-harm might encourage others to view mental illness as something that is tragically beautiful. Sensationalism can lead people to believe mental illness is just a part of who they are, and that therapy is a sham. More dangerously, suicide can be contagious. Studies show that when the news offers sensationalized stories of suicide or reports attempts in detail, suicide rates increase.” Attempting to remove the stigma of mental illness is great, however, there is no beauty in the reality of mental illness.

Meet A Young Lady Affected by Both The Sensationalizing and Misrepresentation

Morgan, a compulsive perfectionist felt less than perfect from early childhood. She knew something was wrong yet wasn’t old enough to put it into words. Her drive toward perfectionism was formed through observing family members, and a lifestyle where less than perfect (for her) was not an option. By the age of 12, Morgan’s illness began affecting her daily life. Relationships were falling apart and she found it hard to concentrate in school. She was sure her family could see she was hurting, yet nothing was being done. Although she got excellent grades and maintained a few close friends, Morgan felt standoffish. She imagined people could look at her and see the sadness, mania, and psychosis she was experiencing. Her chronic sadness, and deep depression, led her to turn to self-harm and suicidal ideation as a way of dealing with her feelings.

By the age of 18, maintaining the level of perfectionism expected of her, she “perfectly” isolated herself from those around her. Her worsening symptoms forced her family to acknowledge professional help was needed. In 2007, at the age of 19, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Morgan found it hard to accept the diagnosis. Giving it a name labeled her as mentally ill and people who practiced perfectionism don’t get ill.

Seeing a psychiatrist and taking medication helped Morgan feel better. She thought life would return to normal, however, disfunction and uncertainness flared. The stress of planning a wedding in 2008 triggered a mental health breakdown causing her fiancé to cancel the wedding. Morgan was left grieving the major loss of the man she loved in the midst of a mental health crisis.

Though her initial visit to a psychiatrist was a positive experience, Morgan changed doctors more than once. Each one made her feel safe and protected, yet an uncertainty remained. In 2016, Morgan was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. She was told her mental illness could be controlled but she would never be cured. Accelerated levels of stress and anxiety would trigger symptoms of mania and hypomania.

By the age of 28, Morgan was self-aware and by 29 she had a toolbox full of coping skills which made day to day life possible. She finished college, got married, and is working a fulltime job. She continues to suffer anxiety, depression, and mild hypomania, but with medication, regular therapy, and self-care, her symptoms are controlled. Morgan suffered mental illness from childhood, turned to self-injury to regulate negative emotions, and suicidal ideation when symptoms worsened because, although she was loved by her parents, it took years before her family acknowledged her illness, years before it was diagnosed, and before psychiatric therapy was received.

Morgan’s story is the story of many children, teens, adolescents, adults, and seniors you see and interact with every day. TV, radio, movies, and social media on the “mental health bandwagon” don’t understand the day to day struggles of those who suffer a mental illness. Don’t allow yourself or those you love to be swayed by TV, movies, social media, or the commercials flooding the airways. Don’t buy-in to the sensationalizing and misrepresentation of mental illness.

Talk With A Professional Oklahoma Mental Health Counselor

Improving Lives Counseling Services has a team of licensed professional counselors and therapists trained to diagnose and treat “real symptoms” of mental illness. Untreated mental illness can be detrimental to physical health, lead to physical injury, self-harm, suicide, and death. Call us today at 918-960-7852.