TV and Social Media: Increasing Mental Health Awareness

Hi, thank you for visiting my blog, I hope you enjoy my first post! My posts will be mainly focused on mental health issues and topics, with the aim to inform and increase awareness. Before I start, my blog is primarily based on personal views and experience, sometimes referring to research and some background information, with the aim of helping anyone who may be suffering, or know of anyone suffering from a mental health illness. I would welcome any advice and feedback on my blogs, or your personal thoughts on the topic.

With a rise in the number of individuals diagnosed with a mental health illness, perhaps TV and social media is the key to increasing awareness, which can lead to an earlier diagnosis and treatment. It’s estimated that around one in four suffers from a mental health illness. So, if 100 people view this blog (that’s me being over enthusiastic), then around 25 of my viewers has some form of mental illness (if my maths is correct!)

Young people specifically are turning to social media for help and advice with their mental health problems, looking to find people in similar situations to themselves. Leading charities and organisations have taken to social media platforms to increase awareness, using the infamous #tag to allow individuals to join campaigns, creating a sense of belonging. However, the use of social media has also been linked to mental health related illness (but, that’s a blog for another day!)

With audiences in their millions, many TV shows have recently included storylines that involve characters experiencing mental health problems. EastEnders actress Lacey Turners recent portrayal of a bipolar episode is an example of how the media and TV can influence and inform viewers. I myself am an EastEnders fan, but during the week of Stacey’s bipolar breakdown, I was glued to the TV; it was so intense, and she played the role outstandingly. Every individuals experience with mental health is unique and varies in severity, but portrayals of some major mental health illnesses through TV can really help to increase awareness of particular symptoms and behaviours, prompting professional help.

Social stigma surrounding mental health still exists – not quite so much as several years ago, but nevertheless, people still look at those with a mental illness in the same way. So, how can TV and social media help to change this? With the rise in mental health campaigns and personal stories being told (including celebrities personal experiences), awareness of major mental illnesses has significantly increased. Through actors portraying mentally ill characters, viewers are able to understand the range of symptoms that can be experienced. The recent death of actor Robin Williams’ battle with depression recently sparked elevated awareness of the disorder through social media and TV. Other celebrities, such as Stephen Fry (English comedian battling bipolar disorder) and Solange Knowles (Beyonce Knowles sister, diagnosed with ADHD) have been influential through their personal stories, helping individuals to seek help.

Social media particularly gives individuals a form of outlet, a way to let their stories be heard (without even having an identity). This combined with the fact there are others going through similar experiences, gives individuals a sense of belonging. In short, both TV and social media really have helped to increase awareness and understanding of mental health. However, I will explore the issue that social media can also lead to mental health related problems, in a later blog.

I’ve tried to keep this blog short, hopefully you enjoyed reading it. If you’re interested in such TV shows and documentaries, BBC One has dedicated two weeks to exploring mental health in order to increase awareness, starting on Monday 15th February. Thank you for reading!

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