Overcoming the media’s inaccurate portrayals of mental illness among teens


Teens are exposed to a number of portrayals of mental illness through mass media and this can greatly shape their feelings on the subject. However, it is important to note that those with a mental health disorder are not always portrayed accurately. Because of this, it is important to acknowledge stereotypes that are commonly depicted, as a number of them are simply not accurate. The importance of putting a moratorium on these myths, especially among young people, is as significant as ever.

Common myths

Adolescents need to be taught that mental illness and the risk of violence happens much less than often perceived. This is not helped by the number of news stories that focus on those with a mental condition who commit a crime, for instance. In reality, this demographic is far more likely to be victims of crime or violence. Mental illness is not always an indicator that someone is capable of violent behavior. Instead, other demographical aspects, such as age and gender, can play a role. Substance abuse is also a factor, as well as unemployment and potentially lower levels of income.

There are many who also believe that those with a mental health disorder will never see improvements later in life. Again, this is simply inaccurate altogether. It is important for teens to consider that those with mental disorders do have the potential to manage their symptoms and recover. In the past, many struggling with the same conditions felt very alone due to stigmas associated with mental illness. Finding the right balance of therapy and medication can go a long way toward helping patients lead a normal life.

Of course, misconceptions about teenagers and mental illness still persist as well. For example, many adults believe that a young person is going through a phase that will pass once he or she enters adulthood. Films can often show recklessness among this age group. Of course, horrific tragedies such as the school shooting at Columbine High School can also present a distorted view of the likelihood of mental instability at this age overall. Nonetheless, educating the young demographic about mental illness can hopefully reduce the likelihood of bullying or teasing on a school campus.

What parents can do

Parents can help teens who are potentially facing mental illness by first educating themselves about the disorder in question. Perhaps the teen is suffering from depression, in which case, it is important to obtain reliable, accurate information about symptoms to receive an accurate diagnosis and not rely on how depression is portrayed by the media.

If diagnosis of a mental health disorder does come to fruition, then it will be necessary for parents to explain how their teen can still lead a normal life and how he or she is not less of a person because of it. Teens are already often self-conscious about their image and this reassurance could prove helpful as a result. Many mental conditions are first diagnosed in adolescence, so it’s important for the teen’s family to show as much support as possible to help him or her cope with the diagnosis.

Increasing awareness

A study by Duke University has shown that as much as half of all adolescents with a psychological disorder remain untreated. This may be a result of a parent not being aware of the teen’s symptoms or not having the financial means for treatment. A teen can also refuse treatment for any reason, perhaps as a form of denial in not wanting to admit that anything is wrong due to stigma. Some young people turn to substance abuse as a means of self-medicating for a disorder, which will lead to more complicated cases of dual diagnosis. There is also an increased risk of suicide among teens facing untreated mental illnesses.

For teens who are struggling with a recent diagnosis of a mental disorder, there are other treatment options out there besides one-on-one therapy and antidepressants. Enrolling teens at a boarding school could be a great opportunity for young patients to be around others going through similar experiences. This can improve awareness for patients, while helping to reduce the odds of being criticized for a disorder, which can happen in a public school. Though teens can be nervous about such transitions at first, they will come to realize they are not alone in their struggles and dealing with these matters as a group can prove helpful. If your teen is struggling with a mental disorder, please contact White River Academy at 866-520-0905 for more information about therapy and treatment.

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top