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Depicting Mental Health
Reducing Misconceptions about Seeking Support

 How common are mental health challenges?

A 2005 study showed that nearly one in five (around 4.9 million) adults in California reported needing help for a mental or emotional health problem.


Click here for more FAQs about mental illness.

Take Shelter
Profile On: Take Shelter

The PRISM Award-winning film Take Shelter focuses on a man living with symptoms of schizophrenia. After experiencing vivid dreams and hallucinations about an apocalyptic storm harming his family, Curtis, played by Michael Shannon, seeks out treatment from a counselor at a free clinic. During his counseling session he discusses his own family history of mental illness, including his mother’s diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. Throughout the film, Curtis continues to experience hallucinations and ultimately overdoses on seizure medication. At the end of the film, Curtis is referred to a psychiatrist about more intensive treatment for his illness. However, during a family vacation to Myrtle Beach prior to beginning treatment he actually comes face to face with the storm he has been hallucinating about.

Take Shelter offers a unique perspective on mental health in that despite the main character seeking professional assistance, the symptoms of his mental illness persist because he has not yet found the right support strategy. This type of story is very important in the mission of reducing misconceptions about mental illness and mental health. Depictions like this one showcase that even with the proper steps and help seeking behavior, there is no quick fix to mental illness. Wellness can only be achieved over time, with the right treatment plan and personal and professional support systems in place.  

Services & Support

The types of services necessary to facilitate management and recovery from a mental health challenge depend on the symptoms the person is experiencing, the severity of the symptoms, and what works best for their individual situation. In many cases, a combination of available services works best. 

Psychotherapy—a process that can be done in different formats, like family, group, or individual, and focused on helping one heal and learn more constructive ways to deal with the problems or issues within one’s life; for example, psychodynamic therapy, interpersonal therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, and systemic therapy
Quality of life focused services—in addition to treating the symptoms of mental illness, services can improve the lives of people living with mental illnesses; for example, money management, access to housing, and employment counseling
Self-coping techniques—help a person as an adjunct to other treatments; for example, breathing exercises, visualization, and meditation
Peer and family supports; for example, people with similar disorders sharing experiences and supporting each other and including family members and friends in the treatment plan
Cultural, ethnic, and spiritual supports—many people with mental illness can find meaning and recovery through specific traditions, guidance, programs, and rituals
Medication -- for example, antidepressant medications, mood-stabilizing medications, anti-anxiety medications, and antipsychotic medications)

Suggestions for Depicting Mental Health Challenges


Services and support are the most important details to consider when designing characters and storylines concerning mental health challenges. Depicting the proper support for the challenges that your character is experiencing not only engages your audience and increases awareness – it also provides you, the writer, with a new opportunity to explore the trials your character may endure while finding the most effective support options and the triumph they feel when they are able to reach a feeling of mental and overall wellness.


Consider these suggestions during your character and storyline development:


  • Contrary to some misconceptions, one can live a gratifying life despite mental health challenges; it all depends on successful management.  In fact, research shows that depicting someone with a mental illness who succeeds in various areas of their life is the most effective way to reduce stigma and discrimination. 
  • Think about ways that you can showcase characters seeking out help either on their own or from the recommendation of a friend or family member.
  • Consider showing how misconceptions surrounding mental illness and help-seeking behaviors, including from specific cultural groups, can prevent a character from seeking the services they need. When possible, attempt to offer solutions such as an understanding friend, counselor or clergy member that helps them to accept their challenges and feel motivated to do something about it.
  • When appropriate, show the consequences of unaddressed mental health challenges on the person who lives with it, as well as his or her family, friends, and community.

17 APA Call For Entries 

The 17th Annual  PRISM Awards Call for Entries
is now open!

Click here to Download
the full Submissions Packet.

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EIC's FREE Technical Assistance Resource 
to the Creative Community!

To set up your own FREE First Draft Consultation with one of our experts contact Ashley: 
or 818-840-2016

The 16th Annual PRISM 
Awards Showcase
 is available Online &

Dr. Drew PRISM Photo

Click here for the full airing schedule and check out 

for updates!

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EIC presents this information with support from 
The Mental Health Services Act (Prop. 63).

CalMHSA Logo            Prop. 63 Logo

The California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA) is an organization of county governments working to improve mental health outcomes for individuals, families and communities. CalMHSA administers programs funded by the Mental Health Services Act (Prop. 63) on a statewide, regional, and local basis.

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