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Depicting Mental Health
Recovery (It's Personal)...

Suggestions for Depicting Mental Health
  • Though some people are very grateful to their mental health services providers, try to avoid portraying this as dependency (i.e., “You fixed me when no one else could” or “There was no way I could have gotten through this without you”) or crossing ethical boundaries (i.e., the famous novel, Prince of Tides). Recovery is often difficult and requires a lot of hard work. Their involvement and dedication to the process is often the key to their recovery.
  • Treatment can be very traumatizing for some people. It used to be that these stories portrayed institutions and “snake pits,” and of course these places traumatized people more than helped them. Many current stories dealing with treatment trauma have to do with misdiagnosis as a result of rapid assessment, lack of the person’s involvement in the process, medication problems, discharge from hospital too early and diversion to jail instead of hospital. Portraying today’s mental health system flaws in realistic ways can help with advocacy and lead to reform. But showing services which are outdated can be misleading and fear producing.
  • Understand the recovery process people go through when faced with a mental health challenge (eg. behavior change stages such as pre-contemplation, contemplation, planning, action, sustaining). This path differs from the processes one goes through in addressing mental illness (e.g., prodrome, untreated, acute, stabilized, etc.); this is the path a person often goes through when reacting to their illness and treatment (Kubler-Ross’ stages of death/dying). There are joys and frustrations inherent in the process.  This level of complexity often adds authenticity and complexity to a character portrayal.
  • Though people who have recovered from substance abuse have long been advocates for others, “giving back” is a relatively new phenomenon in mental health.  Peer advocates, outreach workers, and self-help facilitators’ numbers are growing, along with client-run programs.

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In this issue...
Services & Supports

  • Suggestions for Depicting Mental Health
  • A Message from Brian Dyak
  • Profile On: PRISM Awards Showcase
  • TEAM Up Mental Health Resources
Brian NEW HeadshotA Message from EIC's President, CEO & Co-Founder, Brian Dyak

When depicting characters facing mental health challenges, it’s important to understand the backstory of how someone may develop a mental health issue. But what’s also vital is not just the diagnosis, but the path to recovery and how each person approaches it.

With 1 in 4 people experiencing a mental health issue in any given year, many members of your audience will understand how important and challenging the process of discovering effective services and supports can be. And even when an effective treatment or service is found, it can sometimes weaken over time or become ineffectual due to a change in the person’s circumstances.

Recovery is a very personal experience and different for each individual. Just as no two characters are alike, required services, supports and treatments for those facing mental health challenges are equally complex and diverse. Realistic depictions of recovery help to lend authenticity to character portrayal and also result in compelling stories that feel “real.”  

Profile On: PRISM Awards Showcase

Dr. Drew and G PRISM
Host Dr. Drew Pinsky with Co-Host Giuliana Rancic

The 17th Annual PRISM Showcase honoring productions and performances addressing substance use and mental health issues in ways that inform vast audiences and encourage help‐seeking behaviors is available now on a television or computer screen near you. The star‐studded national television special, the PRISM Showcase is available on for viewing until October 11th and will be available on FX On-Demand starting on October 7th.  

For more information and future airings of  the PRISM Awards Showcase, please visit


Each Mind Matters
To learn more about local efforts to support mental health awareness visit

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