DOES MEDIA SENSATIONALISM SKEW OUR UNDERSTANDING OF MENTAL HEALTH?
Over the years, the media has helped to draw awareness to mental health issues, yet in the same turn can just as easily sensationalize mental health issues. I am not a reality show watcher, I feel that eventually a show will lose it’s interest and then story lines are exaggerated or manipulated to keep the viewers engaged. Scenes of people hitting and fighting, tables being flipped, women slapping each other, or sitting on the couch hysterically crying, aggression, and violence have become normalized by media standards.
Our younger generation has started desensitizing themselves to this type of behavior. Let’s face it, exaggerated emotions can make money for a reality show. Therefore, emotions are good, right? Yes and no. In the case of real life circumstances when someone is truly in emotional distress we may not take notice as readily…doesn’t everyone respond that way? We are desensitizing ourselves to those who may truly be in a time of need, and unable to discern what is factual and what media hype has taught us about human emotions and behavior. Expressing emotions are a good thing, we need to “emotionally vent” and sometimes being a container for everything inside of us can become emotionally draining and take its toll, but how will we ever know when too much emotion, or significant emotion could be indicative of something else, something greater and not merely “dramatic.”
As parents, we owe it to our kids to explain to them what they are watching on TV may not always be an accurate representation of real life emotions or situations. Many individuals with mental health issues suffer in silence and prefer not to draw attention to themselves, contrary to what is portrayed on TV. Kids need to have a clear understanding between what is TV and what is reality and that the two are not always the same.
The evolution of technology has moved us forward as a society in many ways, but just like any type of change we must balance the potential good with the potential harm and make informed decisions based on the knowledge we possess. Making sure that we do not underestimate or normalize behaviors that are seen on TV and then globally apply to those around us is the responsible thing to do, or even better yet, turn off the remote and tune into the world around you.