The representation of mental illness in the media: the use of the nature documentary
Huetter, Abigail Esther
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The misrepresentation of mental illness in the media has been the norm for the last sixty years. Mental illness in film and television is portrayed as dangerous and criminal. The representations shifted to show weakness and vulnerability rather than criminality, yet these depictions still resulted in stigmatization for the mentally ill audience. Documentary filmmakers within the last decade have attempted to tackle the subject of depression and other mental health issues and provided facts and science about the illness. These films were not aimed towards mentally ill audiences; they instead attempted to educate and inform the audiences that had preconceived notions about mental illness. Although good in intention, there was still a lack of representation for authentic and honest characters on screen with mental illness. This paper argues that the form of the nature documentary is the ideal backdrop to represent mental health issues. Nature documentaries demonstrate the science behind why we feel happy while we are outside; what happens in our brain chemistry that makes us feel so good and at peace. My thesis film Out of the Woods borrows elements from the nature documentary and showcases real women on screen with mental illness, in order to increase its visibility to the public eye, without triggering the viewer into reacting to a prepossessed stigma of mental illness from earlier media representations.
Out of the woods is a film that is part of the student's thesis project.