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Depicting Mental Health

Priority Topics to Consider: 
EIC produced a Think Tank forum in Washington, DC in order to discover the priority topics regarding mental health when it comes to entertainment industry portrayals and media reporting. One of those topics was the importance of utilizing characters and story lines in order to stimulate and promote communication about these topics among audience members.
  • Take Language into consideration by separating the disease from the patient. For example, keep in mind that a character has bipolar disorder rather than is bipolar.
  • Consider coupling medical data with engaging emotional story lines to create memorable and informative impressions of mental illness.
  • Keep in mind that accurate storytelling can make mental-health-related information accessible, especially to at-risk or underserved populations and to those who may have low literacy skills.
  • Keep in mind that humor and self-disclosure are effective methods for communicating these issues in your story lines.
Profile On:
Jennifer Morrison

This year, Jennifer
Morrison won a
Award for her performance as Ashley, a young woman suffering from bipolar
disorder in Bringing Ashley Home, a Lifetime Original Movie, based on the true story of Ashley and Libba Phillips. Jennifer discussed her commitment to accuracy, and the methods of research she utilized to achieve it, when we sat down with her after she received her award.

Portraying someone with bipolar disorder is a difficult task due to the reality that this condition is characterized by two emotional states: the manic and the depressive. Jennifer admitted that portraying this character accurately took a great deal of behind the scenes research from publications and documentaries on the illness in order to get it right. "I read a tremendous amount of memoirs written by those who were suffering from bipolar disorder or were once suffering... I was really blown away by how beautifully written they were and just how heartbreaking they were."

The entertainment industry has an unparalleled ability to affect public perception and knowledge about health and social issues. This ability to engage and influence audiences, creates a need for creative and accurate portrayals that will stimulate conversations and ultimately combat misconceptions about these issues. Jennifer summed it up when she described her own motivation to create an authentic and realistic character. "I felt a huge responsibility to portray Ashley accurately, because she was representing a whole percentage of people that are out there struggling with this.. and if this could in some small way make people aware or encourage people to find help... I wanted to do the best I could."

Dispelling common myths about mental health is essential to increasing awareness
and acceptance.

Myth: I can’t do anything for someone with mental health needs.

Fact: You can do a lot, starting with the way you act and how you speak. You can nurture an environment that builds on people’s strengths and promotes good mental health. For example:

  • Avoid labeling people with words like “crazy,” “wacko,” “loony,” or by their diagnosis. Instead of saying someone is a “schizophrenic” say “a person with schizophrenia.”
  • Learn the facts about mental health and share them with others, especially if you hear something that is untrue.
  • Treat people with mental illnesses with respect and dignity, as you would anybody else.
  • Respect the rights of people with mental illnesses and don’t discriminate against them when it comes to housing, employment, or education. Like other people with disabilities, people with mental health needs are protected under Federal and State laws.
Prevalence of Psychological Distress
in the United States

Prevalence of serious psychological distress* among adults aged ≥18 years, by state quartile — Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, United States, 2007§

 Kessler-6 score of ≥13.

 For Tennessee and Utah, data are from 2009.

§ Quartiles based on point estimates.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [Mental Illness Surveillance Among Adults in the United States.] MMWR 2011;60(Suppl).

If you or someone you know is battling depression or thoughts of suicide call

To speak with a counselor today!

For Veterans Press 1

 May is Mental Health Awareness Month and
May 20-26 is

National Prevention Week!

Learn more about this topic and how you can get involved at

Download the
2012 Mental Health Awareness Toolkit Here!

First Draft
EIC's FREE resource to the creative community
offering access to experts on this and
many other topics.

To set up your own FREE First Draft Consultation 
Contact: Ashley at
or call 818-840-2016

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