By: Cassie MyersMental illness is not something that the media handles well. When it is discovered that someone who has committed a crime has a mental illness, it is used as an end-all be-all explanation for what they did. This type of reporting affects the way people look and talk about those with mental illnesses and surveys show that 61% of Americans believe that those who are diagnosed with schizophrenia are violent.
This kind of reporting is clearly demonstrated by the articles that have been written about Amanda Bynes in the last year. Today she is making headlines again. TMZ has released a piece of audio where the actress can can be heard threatening her parents. The Inquisitr has labeled it as “another one of her infamous rants” with the audio clip posted prominently at the top of the article.
What most people are failing to talk about is that Bynes is a 28-year-old who is struggling with a real problem. Instead articles such as “15 Craziest Amanda Bynes Moments: A Timeline and Analysis,” “Amanda Bynes-High, Bizzare and Off To NYC” and “Amanda Bynes Released, Free to Act Crazy” are constantly posted all over the web.
This isn’t just irresponsible, it’s hypocritical. When beloved comedian Robin Williams committed suicide this past summer there was an outpouring of love from the media and a commitment to deal with the stigma that surrounds mental illness. So why is it that three months after William’s death instead of educating people on mental illness we are making Amanda Bynes the punchline of a joke?
Americans are obsessed with watching celebrity “meltdowns” and while these stories are easy click bait and a quick way to spike readership, it’s important to consider the ways that those harmful descriptors enforce the stigma that surrounds mental illness. Associating mental illness with “craziness” and “violence” is lazy reporting and an unfair depiction of an estimated 9.6 million U.S. American adults.
What do you think of the media’s reporting on Amanda Bynes and mental illness? What is the best way to handle stories that deal with mental illness?