Mental illness in fiction  

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Diagram of the human mind, from Utriusque cosmi maioris scilicet et minoris metaphysica, page 217[1] by Robert Fludd

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
in fiction

Works of fiction dealing with mental illness include:



"It has only recently been recognized that valuable new facts and insights are vouchsafed by a study of Freud's relationship with Arthur Schnitzler. That Schnitzler, the Viennese physician-poet and contemporary of Freud's, wrote strikingly "Freudian" plays and stories has, of course, long been common knowledge. For many years it was widely assumed that Schnitzler was merely one of the earliest and most perceptive of Freud's many literary disciples. In 1953, however, it was demonstrated that the relationship was more complicated, that in fact Freud and Schnitzler had not only read one another's early publications but had then regularly read one another's works as they appeared; that Schnitzler had eventually referred to Freud as his "double"; and that Freud, late in life, had called Schnitzler his "psychic twin, " and described him as a pioneer and independent master of depth psychology."--Freud's "Double": Arthur Schnitzler. Frederick J. Beharriell, Ph.D.


Mental illness in films

Many motion pictures portray mental illness in inaccurate ways, leading to misunderstanding and heightened stigmatization of the mentally ill. However, some movies are lauded for dispelling stereotypes and providing insight into mental illness. In a study by George Gerbner, it was determined that 5 percent of 'normal' television characters are murderers, while 20% of 'mentally-ill' characters are murderers. 40% of normal characters are violent, while 70% of mentally-ill characters are violent. Contrary to what is portrayed in films and television, Henry J. Steadman, Ph.D., and his colleagues at Policy Research Associates found that, overall, formal mental patients did not have a higher rate of violence than the control group of people who were not formal mental patients. In both groups, however, substance abuse was linked to a higher rate of violence. (Hockenbury and Hockenbury, 2004)

  • Psycho, a 1960 American film which features a man who exhibits multiple personality-disorder (includes several prequels or sequels or remakes)
  • Marnie, a 1964 American film which features a woman with obsessive fear and distrust
  • Oil Lamps, a 1971 film by Juraj Herz, based on the same named novel by Jaroslav Havlíček, describing the life of vivacious girl and her matrimony with a sardonic man, who suffer from emerging paralytic dementia
  • Benny & Joon, a 1993 American film which features a schizophrenic woman
  • Memento, a 2000 psychological thriller film which is about a man with anterograde amnesia which renders his brain unable to store new memories.
  • A Beautiful Mind, a 2001 film which is a fictionalised account of the schizophrenic mathematician, John Nash
  • The Soloist, a 2009 film depicting the true story of Nathaniel Ayers, a musical prodigy who develops schizophrenia during his second year at Juilliard School, becomes homeless and plays a 2 two stringed violin in the streets of downtown Los Angeles/ California


See mad scene.


Many popular television shows feature characters with a mental health condition. Often these portrayals are inaccurate and reinforce existing stereotypes, thereby increasing stigma associated with having a mental health condition. Common ways that television shows can generate misunderstanding and fear are by depicting people with these conditions as medically noncompliant, violent, and/or intellectually challenged. However, in recent years certain organizations have begun to advocate for accurate portrayals of mental health conditions in the media, and certain television shows have been applauded by mental health organizations for helping to dispel myths of these conditions...

One show, Wonderland, went on the air in 2000 and only lasted several episodes. It was largely critically acclaimed, but pressure from mental health advocates and people with mental health conditions who felt that the show perpetuated stereotypes and contributed to the stigma attached to them led to the show's cancellation.

In 2005, the shows Huff, Monk, Scrubs and ER all won Voice Awards from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for their positive portrayal of people who manage mental health conditions. Neal Baer, executive producer of ER and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit also won a lifetime achievement award for his work in incorporating mental health issues into these two shows.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Mental illness in fiction" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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