How Pop Culture Impacts Mental Health Treatment

abandoned asylum hallway

Asylums. Insulin shock therapy. Metrazol shock therapy. Electric shock treatment. All miracle cures for mental illness, right? If you read the newspaper in the 1940s, you might think so.

While reporting on the “high standard of psychiatric care” at new facilities at the Hillside Hospital in Queens, NY, in October 1941, The New York Times wrote, “The hospital has pioneered in the use of insulin and metrazol, and also in the electric shock treatment, which has proved useful in shortening the average stay of patients.”

“The electric treatment, they say, at least is not unpleasant, so the patient may be more inclined to cooperate with the physician in future treatments,” said The New York Times in 1940.

If you think these treatments sound more like a horror film, there’s a reason. Continue reading How Pop Culture Impacts Mental Health Treatment

What Critics Got Wrong About ‘13 Reasons Why’

cassette tapes headphones desk

13 Reasons Why, the newest Netflix success, is still causing controversy. Critics welcomed the show with warm reviews on March 31st, but, as the series’s hype increased, there was some backlash and disapproval of the depiction of the main character’s depression and ultimate decision to end her life. The show, however, was responsible for bringing awareness to mental health problems, mainly those most common with teenagers.

The show is based on a 2007 book of the same name by Jay Asher. The story is about Hannah Baker, a 17-year-old girl, who, after struggling with depression, psychological and physical abuse for over a year, decides to kill herself. Before dying, Hannah records 13 tapes in which she discloses the 13 reasons why she killed herself. The reasons, however, are all people.

Critics questioned the way the Netflix show depicted the aftermath of Hannah’s suicide. Some said the series expressed the idea that suicide is inevitable because the people surrounding Hannah felt a sense of helpless about her situation. They were not able to help her or prevent her from killing herself because she was already dead by the time they understood she needed help. Instead, Hannah’s acquaintances were only able to agonize over her tapes and feel guilty for being one of her “reasons.” Continue reading What Critics Got Wrong About ‘13 Reasons Why’

What ‘The Big Bang Theory’ Theory Teaches Us About Social Anxiety

big bang theory cast

Roughly 15 million American adults live with social anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Social anxiety has grown in mainstream conversations about mental health over the years, but what does it look like to actually live with the disorder? There’s a great example viewable in one of television’s biggest sitcoms, “The Big Bang Theory.”

Rajesh Koothrappali (Raj) from “The Big Bang Theory” represents a solid case of social anxiety disorder. In earlier seasons of the show, Koothrappali’s social anxiety cripples him by rendering him speechless around women who aren’t members of his family. When he’s alone with his friends, he has no problem expressing himself. But when faced with the prospect of speaking with a woman he deems attractive, Raj often uses alcohol as a social lubricant.

Many viewers, including myself, find this character trait charming in those earlier seasons. As a therapist I understand this kind of representation can minimize the lives of those who deal with social anxiety in real life. Nonetheless, my impression is that the writers of the show handle Raj’s disorder with both compassion and humor. This leads me to believe that both the actor and those in the writers’ room understand what it’s like to experience social anxiety. Continue reading What ‘The Big Bang Theory’ Theory Teaches Us About Social Anxiety