From movie villains to mental health realities

April 18, 2017

One could argue that it is easier for someone to admit to having a serious and potentially life threatening tumour than to be suffering from a mental health illness, let’s say for example: schizophrenia.

Is it because of the movies we have seen when the villain is described as a schizophrenic, possessed stalker, with sadistic behavioural patterns?

Well, it certainly adds to an unfriendly picture with such conditions as “torturous maniacs stopping at nothing to reach their objective”.

Stereotypes and Stigma

As entertaining as it was the Joker in the film Batman: Dark Knight (2008) was consider by most a “supervillain”, who embodies themes of chaos, anarchy and obsession. Heath Ledger (who played the Joker) described the Joker as a “psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy.”

These interpretations of someone with mental illness like schizophrenia further emphasises the stereotype and the stigma around people with such serious illnesses.

Does admitting to suffering from a mental health issue almost feel like adopting a likeness to these “villains” which we all love to hate?

In a recent trip to the London Aquarium I was surprised to learn that Sharks are not these blood thirsty creatures that prey on surfers on beaches. Apparently Sharks don’t even enjoy the taste of human blood and merely attack when they feel under threat (Who knew).

The label attached to Sharks is to larger extent been attributed to their depiction in the iconic Steven Spielberg movie Jaws. (If you haven’t watched it, the movie begins with a shark attacking a couple swimming late at night, later on the Great White Shark goes on a killing spree; eating everything in its path!!! …..) I won’t spoil it for you but there is an epic ending; according to the Guardian newspaper it’s on the 100 movies to watch before you die.

The realities of mental health are very serious. The stigma surrounding mental health issues are such that individuals who may be suffering from these issues are not accessing the medical help and support that is so important for them to receive.

The trends in mental health illness are sadly increasing. The awareness campaigns are numerous and varied despite the downward trend there is some hope and that is that the trend for people seeking help and support is increasing.

This is goods news, as the impact of awareness campaigns in society in taking mental health more seriously can be seen, but there is still a long way to go.

How many people seek help and use services?

Treatment statistics

The 2014 APMS found that one adult in eight (12.1%) reported receiving mental health treatment, with 10.4% receiving medication and 3% receiving psychological therapy. The overlap within the statistics is due to 1.3% of those receiving treatment reporting receiving both medication and psychological therapy.

For those with common mental health problems, 36.2% reported receiving treatment. The proportion of people with a common mental health problem using mental health treatment has significantly increased. Around one person in four aged 16–74 with symptoms of a common mental health problem was receiving some kind of mental health treatment in 2000 (23.1%) and 2007 (24.4%). By 2014, this has increased to more than one in three (37.3%) (see Figure 4a).”

Source: Mental Health Foundation – “Fundamental Facts 2016” – a resource for everyone interested in good mental health and preventing mental health problems from developing.

More and more people are seeking help. In the recent study by the Mental Health Foundation (MHF), the key is “prevention” and/or “early intervention”. The sooner the support or help is received the more likely the chances of a better or quicker recovery.

Early intervention is really important, as it can help prevent further escalation in mental health deterioration, so knowing where to go to seek further help and assistance is essential. I have listed below numerous organisations that help specifically with mental health.

We lose, if we don’t help people with mental health illness.

The reality is if “we” don’t help people with mental health problems, our economy will also be hugely affected.

Just take look at the impact below:

The UK

The 2013 Chief Medical Officer’s report estimated that the wider costs of mental health problems to the UK economy are £70–100 billion per year – 4.5% of gross domestic product (GDP). However, estimating this figure is very complex and an earlier study carried out by Centre for Mental Health found that, taking into account reduced quality of life, the annual costs in England alone were £105.2 billion.


It is just staggering how much the UK economy is affected by mental health problems, although as stated above it’s a complex area, the cost of mental health problems is “£70-100 billion per year” is an astronomical figure.

The invisible illness has a very visible presence, apart from the financial affects, just think of the serious consequences on families and friends suffering from loved ones with mental health issues; which money cannot equate. So reaching out and helping is essential.

Support is not far!

If you feel you are suffering from any form of mental health issues do not let the erroneous perceptions surrounding mental health issues impede you from making yourself better; in the same way you would not hesitate to take a paracetamol if you had a head ache. (No brainer right)

Here are just some of the excellent organisations that help people with Mental Health problems: