media stigma

Every year when Halloween rolls around, we may sit down and watch horror movies for the thrills and chills. There are many types of horror movies and they cover many different plot lines and themes. A common setting in horror movies can be insane asylums. The institutions in these movies can have actors portraying those suffering from mental illness and sometimes the doctors in the movie will be using the patients for scientific research or personal gain. In these horror films, merely stepping into the mental institution evokes a sense of doom for not only the characters in the movie, but for those watching it. While you know that this commonly used plot can be incredibly scary, these types of movie plots can have negative side effects of reinforcing stigmas about mental health and psychiatric facilities. 

There is a consistent battle to fight the stigma of mental illness in our world. As much as we love horror movies and the thrills they can deliver, we can’t afford to let stigmas be perpetuated in society. If we can break down the stigmas and perceptions prevalent throughout our society, then we can help people seek the treatment they need when they are ready for it.

Stigmas Surrounding Insane Asylums

The very name “insane asylum” is misleading. Yes, there are institutions in place to help those who cannot care for themselves and those places are a necessary part of society so that we can serve a population of people that need hospitalization. But not all mental hospitals are an “asylum” nor are the people there “insane.” Due to the misinformation in some of our media, many may perceive going to seek help for a mental illness means being locked up in a padded room with sinister doctors experimenting on you. Removing this stigma will help our society understand that psychiatric institutions are not a dark place devoid of empathy and care and are actually a place where the innocent and helpless can get the proper help they need. 

These media portrayals of mental health institutions are highly problematic because they are instilling the idea that seeking professional medical help for our mental health is a dark and shameful experience. It also perpetuates the idea that people are putting themselves in danger by just wanting to get better. 

Mental Healthcare Today 

Mental healthcare is much more positive and successful than what movie creators are portraying. While the drama is fun for the audience, it is important to differentiate the reality versus the imagination of a movie plot. Psychiatric hospitals are full of people who care about you and they have a range of programs and therapies whose goal is to provide a positive experience so that you can have the best care and attention while you are there. These facilities are actually warm places where help can be given and greatly differ from what is usually portrayed in the media. The world of mental healthcare deserves to be shed with a different light. The caretakers at these institutions are people that are doing great work and putting in the necessary time and attention to help the people who really need it.

Be a Voice of Reason

The best thing we can do to help break these stigmas down is to be honest and open about our own experiences. Tell the stories of how these places changed our lives for the better. If we can spread these true stories, perhaps people will be able to differentiate between what is real and what is being used to tell a scary story. We may not be able to change how Hollywood tells the story of mental healthcare facilities and the people in them. But we can do our best to share the reality and therefore help the people who need the reassurance that these facilities and mental healthcare professionals are truly safe and provide great care. 

It is possible to create a world where we can educate enough people to make a real difference. We can create this separation where more people are aware that what they are viewing in a movie is purposefully altered and manipulated to provoke fear. If we can educate more about the truth behind mental illness and behavioral healthcare then we can decrease the stigma. T

Stop Enabling The Ignorance

The negative and false portrayals of mental health hospitals in the media is something that should be addressed. It is important to stop the stigma of mental illness perpetuated by the media from continuing to influence people’s opinions of the positive work of mental healthcare. While movies can be a bridge to make complex issues more accessible to people, reducing the impact they have on the stigma of mental illness is paramount. By sharing our stories and spreading correct information about mental healthcare, we can help our society learn the truth and beauty behind the amazing work that mental health professionals and facilities provide. 


Our life after recovery can be the best time to become an advocate for mental health. As people who have experienced it, we are the perfect people to change the way the world views mental health and treatment. If you are suffering from mental illness, you have probably experienced stigma and various forms of discrimination. It’s important to note that most people have no idea where their conceptions and biases come from. Most of us watch movies without a second thought as to their lasting impact on our worldview. If, however, you’re looking to get help, it’s important to find a recovery program which truly understands your struggles. At True Recovery, we specialize in helping people with mental illness and dual diagnoses. Our program includes therapy and support groups which can help get you back on your feet and thriving despite mental illness and other challenges. If you’re looking to make a change and get back on track, True Recovery can help. To learn more, call us today at (866) 399-6528