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Student Research Guide: Media Portrayal of the Mentally Ill: Home

by Jackie Wilcomb

Introduction to the Topic

This research guide is focused on how Mental health is presented in the entertainment part of media. For many years, television and film have inaccurately portrayed mental illnesses as a way to capture their targeted audience’s attention. Unfortunately, this created social stigmas that became harmful to those related to mental illnesses. This research guide will provide information on what these stigmas are, how they affect those that have relations to mental illnesses, and how to notice and prevent these stigmas from spreading. 

The scientific questions I had while researching this project were…

  1. How did mental illnesses start in the entertainment industry?

  2. Why did directors show inaccurate showings of mental illnesses? 

  3. Is there a way to keep audiences interested in the television shows and films all while portraying accurate information about mental illnesses?

Keywords for searching the topic


Keywords Related to Research

Mental Illnesses

Mental Health 






Best Databases/Search Engines

Below are the databases that were used for the process of researching. These databases were the most frequently used databases that provided the best information for the research topic. 

Example of Research


The video above is an example of what the research was based around. A psychiatrist is watching certain scenes from television shows and films and explains whether or not the creators were correct in the description of the mental disorders. If they were not correct, they would describe what would be more accurate and how the television show or film should have presented the mental illness to make it more realistic. 


Favorite Sources that was used for the Research

1.Owen, Patricia R. "Portrayals of Schizophrenia by Entertainment Media: A Content Analysis of Contemporary Movies." Psychiatric Services, vol. 63 no.7, 2012, pp. 655-9. ProQuest,, doi:

This is one of the best sources that were found during the research because it explains very thoroughly what the stigmas are against mental illnesses, how they are created, and what problems they can cause. THere are studies that were performed to identify how negative the stigmas were and how many television shows and films had these stigmas.This source helps with the research because it is very informative and has a lot of information and studies that help with the research.

2. da Silva, A. G., Baldaçara, L., Cavalcante, D. A., Fasanella, N. A., & Palha, A. P. (2020). 

The Impact of Mental Illness Stigma on Psychiatric Emergencies. Frontiers in 

Psychiatry, 11.

This source explains what the mental illness stigma does to those who have or work with mental illnesses. It also provides studies and important pieces of information that are very interesting. This source helps with the research because it shows what the stigma that television and films create do to those with mental illnesses and how impactful it can be. 

3. Smith, Dr. S. L. (2019). Mental Health Conditions in Film & TV: Portrayals that Dehumanize and Trivialize Characters. .

This source explains the stigma created against characters of color and those who are part of the LGBTQ+ that have mental illnesses. They provide statistics and informative pieces of evidence that show the stigma is negative and they also provide a new type of stigma, which is the stigma of mentally ill character of color/ part of the LGBTQ+ community. 

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