With 43.6 million people aged 18 and up affected by mental illness in the United States, knowledge on the topic is still very scarce. However, the entertainment industry has taken the role of raising awareness.
University of California, Los Angeles, premiered “The Center Cannot Hold,” an opera based on the true story of Dr. Elyn Saks, a professor of law and psychiatry at the University of Southern California who began to struggle with schizophrenia in high school.
Saks wrote about her experience in 2007, where composer of the opera, Dr. Kenneth Wells, received inspiration.
In her memoir, Saks said the overall goal of her writing was to spread awareness and hope.
“I wanted to open a window into the mind, to bring understanding to people who don’t have schizophrenia and hope to those who do,” Saks in at a press release.
In recent years the entertainment industry has expanded in taking on the responsibility of educating audiences on important topics. Movies such as “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Shutter Island” and “Black Swan” have all brought awareness to mental illness.
Nicholas Nardi, adjunct professor of psychology at California Baptist University, said he agrees steps need to be taken in raising awareness, and through the light shed by the entertainment industry as well as public support, change is possible.
“It is entertainment’s responsibility to educate the public on societal issues and help to raise awareness,” Nardi said. “I think we as the public have a responsibility to educate ourselves and support endeavors that bring about meaningful change.”
Mental illness is not something that should be feared, but rather understood. Negative views are easily generated without education, but if the general public’s outlook changes through the use of mediums like the entertainment industry, mental illness can finally receive the attention it needs.
Although mental illness differs from physical disease, that does not mean it should be treated any differently.
“The public needs to be made more aware of the issues surrounding mental illness,” Nardi said. “Moreover, the stigma surrounding mental illness needs to be addressed in a more compassionate and accurate light. (It) should be treated like any other illness.”
Conversations needs to happen in order for mental illness to receive the attention it needs.
“To correct the public’s misconceptions, these issues need to be talked about by the media and society as a whole,” Nardi said.