Media sources such as movies, TV shows and news channels are a great source of knowledge and even entertainment. However, these sources of media also have the power to influence our opinions on various topics. One of the most important topics being heavily discussed in the media is mental health Even though the media can be a great source for promoting mental health awareness, the majority of media resources seem to show mental health and related issues in a negative light.

Media And The Negative Portrayal Of Mental Health

Media portrayal can influence one’s perception of mental illnesses. Media influence can also override personal experiences about how mental illnesses are viewed. The media can perpetuate the negative stereotypes associated with mental illnesses. 

Very often, people with mental illnesses are depicted with negative attributes such as being unlikable, dangerous, aggressive, violent, asocial, untrustworthy and incompetent. Labelling people with mental illnesses as dangerous and violent reinforces the public’s view of fear and anxiety toward the mentally ill. Even newspapers, which are another important source of information, have published articles promoting stereotypes about mental health

The impact that social media has on people can be multi-fold as well. Social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram have pages named ‘Psychology Facts’. Such pages post facts related to mental health, but without any authentic or credible resources, people follow and believe these facts. Needless to say, this leads to misguiding people. These social media pages have also been coming up with new terms related to mental health or illnesses and encouraging people to use such terms. This is, however, not right, as people casually use these terms and fail to realize the seriousness of such terms. 

Nowadays, people tend to look up and search for symptoms and disorders on the internet. This tendency to Google one’s symptoms without consulting a trained mental health professional can contribute to a lot of stigma and misinformation around mental health. This inaccurate information often causes more harm than good.

Apart from social media, Bollywood movies too, have been showing psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals in a negative light, particularly in the 1990s. For example, in movies such as Damini (1990) and Dilwale (1994), psychiatrists were depicted as either unprofessional or even used for comedic purposes. Such portrayals only contribute to the existing negative stereotypes about mental health and mental health professionals

A Change In Trend

In recent years, the media’s depiction of mental health issues has been changing towards positivity. Since the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput by suicide, the news media in particular have been encouraging people to talk openly about mental health issues. Deepika Padukone, another Bollywood actress, has been vocal about her battle with depression. Her open dialogue about her struggle has also prompted the media to pay attention to mental health  issues.

A 2016 Bollywood movie, Dear Zindagi, starring prominent actors Alia Bhatt and Shahrukh Khan, also talks openly about concepts of depression and therapy. Such positive and, more importantly, realistic depictions of mental health will only help to increase mental health awareness. 

In Western cinema too, personal accounts of patients and sensitive depictions in movies like “As Good As It Gets” have attempted to deliver a fairly accurate image of psychiatric illnesses and their sufferers. Some movies, such as “A Beautiful Mind,” have portrayed serious psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia in a good and interesting way too. 

Similar to India, the media portrayal of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals might not have always been positive in the West as well. They were quite often portrayed as neurotic, unable to maintain professional boundaries, substance users, rigid, controlling, ineffectual, uncaring, self-absorbed or mentally unstable, However, in a few films like Good Will Hunting (1997), Ordinary People (1980) and Shutter Island (2010), psychiatrists have been depicted positively. 


The media and its negative portrayal of mental health can have a major negative impact on mental illnesses. The stigma that arises due to negative media reporting can impair self-confidence, impede recovery and create barriers to seeking treatment. People who suffer from a mental illness may internalize negative references and develop avoidant coping mechanisms that become obstacles to treatment. Experiences of discrimination and violence can also result in psychological distress. Additionally, inaccurate portrayals of mental illnesses in films may have a range of adverse effects, such as promoting inaccurate knowledge in society and leading to misunderstandings. Thus, we, as people, need to make sure that we get knowledge about mental health only from trustworthy and authentic sources




Sakshi is a Psychologist with expertise in research and writing, she can make the most complex topic sound simple! She has completed MSC in Counselling Studies from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Also, She loves books and music and forgets the world once earphones are plugged in.