I like watching TV, however, if there is one thing I don't like its bad representation. Bad representation of anything, whether that be LGBT+ rights, acknowledging people of colour and of course mental illness. TV shows are something which can either hit the nail on the end when it comes to representing a mental illness or completely get it wrong and end up offending quite a few people, myself included.
It's not all doom and gloom though, alongside the awful shows which made a complete cock up and didn't present mental illness well at all, there are a few who do an excellent job! Hooray! I'll admit there isn't that many, well not that I'm aware of. I'm always up for discovering new shows though so do hit me up with your suggestions. I still think it's good to acknowledge them though. It's incredibly important to bring mental illness into mainstream media but more importantly present it accurately.
I don't think I would be alone in saying that I would rather have a mental illness not mentioned at all in TV shows then presented really badly. Whether that be suggesting that those who are mentally ill are all criminals and murders or if you have OCD you just like things neat and tidy. This does more damage than good, to be frank. I would rather not have it at all, but unfortunately, it does exist. There's not much I can do expect to call out the bad shows and hope they never get recommissioned. As always I would love to know your thoughts on any of the TV shows mentioned in this post, do you agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments!
Let's start with the positives yeah?
The Big Bang Theory
Okay so I know not everyone likes how obsessive compulsive disorder is portrayed in this show, but I actually don't mind it. Sheldon the main character displays a lot of OCD characteristics although I don't think it's ever explicitly stated that he does or doesn't have the illness in any of the series'. Sheldon's OCD centres around a need for closure. Whenever he knocks on the door, he has to knock three times, say the person's name and repeat till they answer. If they answer without him finishing he will still have to continue the compulsion.
Sheldon also expresses a hatred for germs. If he drinks from another person's glass, he over reacts and lists all the illnesses he is going to get. He also refuses to touch door handles in public places, e.g., the hospital. It's hard to comment if this really is OCD or just a fear of germs as no intrusive thoughts are ever mentioned. That being said, I don't think the Big Bang theory adds to the stigma around OCD and actually portrays it quite well. I have to admit I do love this show, the theme tune is definitely not my ringtone or anything...
Back in the day probably when I was 11-13 years old I used to watch Eastenders religiously. Honestly, I have no idea why and I wish I kind of didn't especially as I was so young, but I did, and I can't reverse the past. However, a particular storyline that does stick in my mind is Stacey and Jean's bipolar storyline. I remember very clearly watching Stacey in denial about her illness, acting irrationally and confused.
She starts claiming that she can see her baby. There are voices in her head, and the baby is following her around. The people around her don't understand, they think she is crazy and completely off the rails. Little do they know she's suffering from a complex mental illness. A particular scene that is vivid in my memory is when Stacey was sectioned under the mental health act. The acting and portrayal of this scary time for the sufferer and family were incredible. I can't comment on any other mental health storylines because I can't remember plus I haven't watched Eastenders in years, thank God.
Supersize vs. super skinny
Okay, so this show doesn't explicitly focus on mental health. What it does do, however, is trigger people with eating disorders and in a way it normalises these extreme and unhealthy eating habits. If you've never heard of this show, which I'm sure you have. The premise is two people, one who is very overweight and who is very underweight swap extreme diets to get an insight into how the other person lives.
The massive problem I have with this is this kind of therapy, shock therapy if you like, is that it is not healthy. They both have poor diets, suddenly eating thousands of calories a day or in stark contrast basically fasting for hours on end isn't healthy for anyone. Trust me, I have personal experience of this. What these people need is a balance. A nutritional diet with lots of vitamins and goodness but also a few treats. This show was fuel for my eating disorder when I was younger. I would watch this show feeding the irrational side of my brain pretending that these eating habits were normal and even something to look up to.
I'm sure somewhere along the line of the many series' there was they did look at anorexia. The biggest problem I had with this was they were implying these super skinny people they had on the show had eating disorders when they didn't. Someone with an eating disorder might think their terrible eating habits are normal and like I did feed of the numbers and diet inspiration. They also never highlighted binge eating disorder as a mental illness. The overweight people were always just portrayed as being lazy.
Did I mention they also did a child's version of this show which I don't know about you but I find pretty disgusting and just so wrong?
Obsessive compulsive cleaners
OMG, where do I start? I could be here for days ranting about this utter disgrace of a show. It's beyond me how this ever got commissioned. The main idea behind the show was for someone who is an 'obsessive cleaner' to go and clean someone's home which is dirty, vile and disgusting. The main thing which pisses me off about this show is that they have people with and without OCD on there. Some of the obsessive cleaners were clinically diagnosed with OCD who really needed help and support while others were just neat freaks.
They are adding to the stigma that surrounds OCD as they imply all those with OCD, struggle with contamination and germs but that's just not the case at all. They rarely mention any intrusive thoughts or explain how OCD works and keeps sufferers trapped in this vicious cycle. They glamorise mental illness by letting people without OCD show off their impeccably clean homes. Like I'm sorry I don't understand why they have mixed non-sufferers with sufferers it's just confusing and does no good.
In my opinion, they should have had no OCD sufferers. We're not all obsessed with bacteria and cleanliness! Oh and please don't make it out as if we would happily come around and clean everyone's home because let me tell you there's nothing cute or glamorous about living with OCD. To top it all off the name of this show makes my blood boil. Don't ever use mental illness as acronyms for your jokes. You wouldn't do it about cancer so don't do it about OCD.
I knew I would get pretty passionate in this post, I'm sorry if I rambled on a bit too much. I'm pretty limited to the TV I can watch as I don't have Netflix or Sky. So if there are any TV shows you watch that do a good or bad job of depicting mental illness, let me know. I would love to find out more.