New Study: Misuse of mental health terms in teen TV influencing perceptions


Analysis of popular teen TV programmes reveals that mental health issues are regularly portrayed in a negative light, potentially deterring young people from coming forward with concerns.

Independent analysis[1] commissioned by Bupa examined over 30 hours of programming (52 episodes[2]) aimed at teens and found that mental health descriptors including “crazy”, “mad”, “psycho” “depressed” and “insane” were used, on average, twice an episode – with nearly half of mentions found to be dismissive, humorous or mocking.

This data is alarming with almost one quarter of young Australians experiencing psychological distress, according to the latest Black Dog Institute and Mission Australia Youth Report[3].

Dr Zoe Wainer, Head of Public Health at Bupa said negative perceptions can deter young people from coming forward with concerns leading to treatment and diagnosis delays.

“While featuring mental health in popular culture can build awareness, inaccurate representation could be creating negative stigmas and misconceptions of serious conditions.”

“Early diagnosis and access to treatment improves the long-term prognosis of mental health conditions, so it is essential that young people are supported so they feel comfortable talking about their worries,” said Dr Wainer.

To assist parents who are concerned about their children’s mental health, Bupa offers a dedicated telephone support line which is available 24/7 for members with family hospital cover.

As part of the service, a counsellor works with parents to identify a child’s needs, and then guide them through the next best steps to take.

This could include a needs assessment, options for clinical services, or further information on specific mental health conditions. After the call, parents will also receive an email with the referral information provided during the call, which parents can refer back to after the call has ended.

Bupa is also a proud partner of the Kids Helpline as a supporter of the @ School Wellbeing program which aims to help children cope with and manage a range of different emotional and wellbeing issues. They include things like bullying, friendships, developing resilience, managing emotions and transitioning to high school.