complex mental health in the media

So as an avid sci fi fan, movie and TV show lover and mental health student nurse I find it interesting the connections you can make from plots. the various interpretations that can come from a piece of media such as films or shows are endless, behind its synopsis and (sometimes) obvious story its trying to tell, what does it truly mean?

Some of the best sci fi movies may have cool features but they are viewed as being great because they portray a reflection on society. Those with the most bizarre extra-terrestrial interactions or complex futuristic technology are really just about very natural basic human emotions or experiences.

This is why I’m particularly interested in the ability to pluck out mental health comparisons from these types of movies and TV shows. Firstly I’m going to discuss some which do insinuate mental health connections anyway.

Superheroes or super human?
Legion, this is a TV how based on the characters from marvel x men comics. This is a very easy comparison with the whole “mutant”, outsider of society, not being understood metaphor. It does actually discuss mental health diagnosis, treatment and wards in some of the episodes (no spoilers). However I recently attended a talk by an individual who did not believe they had a chemical imbalance that needed to be altered with medication. Instead they believed it was “society” that was sick and they were just more sensitive to life experiences, viewing these as superpowers. They then gave the example of this TV show showing that this fictional story is not totally outside the realm of belief for some people with a mental illness.

Now then I do have some issues with media representations. I’m going to be using the film split to do this, although it can be said it was a great performance, I personally wasn’t a fan of the switch to superpowers and connection to unbreakable and the follow up of glass (of which I haven’t seen yet). This is because they had the opportunity to discuss mental health difficulties in a realistic way and it’s difficult to do that in this format. I know it’s “just a film” but there are a lot of people who have dissociative identity disorder (previously known as multiple personality disorder). There are already endless demonisations of these people that the stigma may be never ending and continues to perpetuate the negative idea of danger and misinformation around complex conditions such as these.

Back onto a less harmful and more open interpretation I have gotten from a film about DID. Jonathon, which is currently on Netflix, stars Ansel Elgort who plays the part of two brothers who live in the same body. They take shifts and live out their respective lives in the 12 hours they are given while the other “sleeps” but the body does. While watching this I did make a link to DID. For many with DID a lot of them experience amnesia during the “switching” between different “alters” in the body? Each has their own entirely different personality, memories, trauma, triggers, and role in the “system” and view of life.

(If you want more info on DID go check out dissociaDID on YouTube)

Overall I did enjoy legion and Jonathon but not split for reasons I can’t quite explain myself despite the similarities. I think that media representations of mental health conditions can be done and if done well can education a large population of people who may not work in the field but can come across someone who has these experiences. now some may disagree with me on this but it is my own view that there still needs to be a level of responsibility from people involved in stories that include those with mental illness to help promote education and not add to the stigma and demonisation of natural human conditions.

Please let me know your thoughts
on any of these programmes/films if you’ve seen them before I would be very
interested to know!!

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