engage in not only hedonic, pleasure-seeking motivations but also
eudaimonic, truth-seeking purposes while watching television and
film; viewers are in the search for answers to questions addressing
purpose and meaningfulness (984-985). While viewers are able to
recognize events portrayed on screen as fictive, they are still
susceptible to being influenced by general themes,
characterizations, and treatments of issues on screen. Furthermore,
because little education on mental illness is provided within public
and private schools at all levels, many individuals get a majority of
their information about mental illness from mass media, which can
color their perspectives on what people with mental illnesses are
like and how they behave, leading to fear, avoidance, and
discrimination. (Tartakovsky; Wahl).
The stigmas perpetuated by these shows and films, and
maintained by individuals who watch them, can have traumatic
effects on individuals with mental illnesses as well. Fear of being
stigmatized prevents many individuals from disclosing mental
disorders they may be experiencing and, in many cases, prevents
these individuals from seeking treatment. In fact, employees who
have missed work for medical help would rather say they have
committed a petty crime and spent time in jail than to disclose that
they were admitted into a psychiatric hospital (Tartakovsky). Thus,
the pervasive stereotypes upheld across various media sources not
only lead to a misinformed public but have concrete, detrimental
effects on people living with mental illnesses, which is no small
portion of the overall population. It is reported that 43.6 million
people age 18 or older, or 18.1 percent of all U.S. adults, live with
some mental illness. Just over twenty percent of U.S. children aged
13 to 18 have been diagnosed at some point in their lives with a
seriously debilitating mental disorder. Also, depression is one of
the most widespread of illnesses, affecting an estimated 16.1
million adults (6.7%) and 3 million children (12.5%) (NIMH).
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