The topic of mental health and illness is one of the hardest things to navigate in today’s culture because it’s still a taboo topic to talk about.
This is somewhat problematic for a college student because according to the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health website, 11.9 percent of college students are impacted by an anxiety disorder. The median age of onset of obsessive-compulsive disorder is 19 and the median age for generalized anxiety disorder is 20.
And according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the third leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 24 years-old.
This is why discussions revolving around mental illness can be beneficial for college students. Yet, with stigma revolving mental illness, discussions or conversations can be intimidating to start.
Yet, one of the easiest ways for this stigma to be removed is how conversations about mental illness are portrayed in TV shows and movies.
A prime example came from the hit NBC show “This Is Us” episode “Jack Pearson’s Son.” In this season one episode, the show depicts what a real panic attack looks like, according to Dr. James Murrough.
Dr. Murrough, an assistant professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Mount Sinai Hospital, explains how the experience that Randall had in “This Is Us” is a rather accurate portrayal. The signs, according to him in a post on The Mighty’s website, can include feeling like you’re dying or losing your mind, blurring of vision, and feeling disconnected from one’s body.
However, the post on The Mighty’s website did point out what was problematic with the portrayal of the scene is how unrealistic it was that Randall’s brother dropped everything to help him during the panic attack. And in college, it might be uncomfortable to even address the topic of mental illness or health.
Yet seeing how characters in “This Is Us” could possibly have encouraged Randall to seek help from a professional within the mental health field and then continue being supportive of Randall seeking help.
How a show such as “This Is Us” is truly helpful to people who experience mental health issues is by providing a way to discuss how their mental illness impacts them.
Even contemporary authors have found ways to illustrate what their experience with mental illness is like: JK Rowling has stated several times that Dementors in her “Harry Potter” series is a representation of her depression.
I think with the rise of mental health and mental illness being portrayed in several different mediums, it’s become easier to understand the topic of mental health with friends or roommates while in college. The challenge is knowing how to approach the topic.
This is where literature, TV and film can help out. Seeing conversations in how characters attempt to talk about receiving help for a mental illness can possibly give people a way to know how to have a conversation in real life.
If anything, literature and film can create a way for friends and family members to create conversations amongst themselves about mental health topics.