Mental Health and TV – Good for All of Us

Today I posted an article over at the American Psychological Association’s blog, Your Mind. Your Body.  In it I write about the importance of portraying mental health issues, struggles and solutions in TV and movies.  Check it out here.

Some of my favorite TV shows regularly integrate important topics in mental health including bullying, suicide, mental illness and family struggles.  The folks over at Glee do a pretty good job (most of the time) accurately portraying mental illness and treatment. Gossip Girl, Hoarders, Parenthood, Monk and Friday Night Lights are other shows that include characters with psychiatric disorders.

Of course there are tons of movies whose main subject is mental illness.  Check out this cool list on Wikipedia listing movies featuring mental illness organized by diagnosis.  Silver Linings Playbook is just 1 of 14 movies listed in the Bipolar Disorder category.

If you want to learn more about some of the great work being done in TV and films, check out SAMHSA’s Voice Awards.  Here’s a description:

Join the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Voice Awards program in recognizing consumer/peer leaders and TV and film professionals who educate the public about the real experiences of people with behavioral health problems. Through their work and personal stories of resilience, both groups of leaders demonstrate that people can and do recover from mental health and substance use disorders and lead full and meaningful lives in their communities.

Today is the deadline to nominate producers and programs! Check out SAMHSA’s site to submit your favorite show by the end of the day!

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Kill Your Television?

I have a love/hate relationship with TV.  If you’ve read much of my blog, you know that I love pop culture – of which TV is a big part. I even think that TV can be used as an informative and unique parenting tool.  But when I saw the reports of the study released from the University of Bristol’s School for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences finding children who watched TV television or used computers for more than two hours had higher “psychological difficulty” scores, regardless of how much time the children participated in physical activity, I was not at all surprised.
So here comes the hate side of my relationship with TV.  While I have done no formal research on the issue, I can say with certainty that in both my clinical and personal life, I see the effects of too much TV everyday.  I’m not even objecting to the risqué story lines or the gratuitous violence – it’s more basic than that.  I find TV, computers, and other electronic gadgets to be too stimulating.  They wind me up and they can wind kids up too.

We might look like vegetables cuddled up on the couch when we are watching, but it has been my experience that they can over-stimulate us so that even once the TV is turned off, we have trouble turning ourselves off.  Find yourself overly anxious, worrying too much, totally stressed, or your kids spinning like a top? It might be worth unplugging for a week or two and see if it makes a difference.

Want some ideas about what to do with all your newly-discovered, unplugged time? Read the diary of my TV Free Week last spring.