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The demonisation of psychiatrists in fiction (and why real psychiatrists might want to do something about it)

  • Jacqueline Hopson (a1)
Summary

To encourage psychiatric practitioners to be aware of and to work to counteract the representations of the profession as evil manipulators in fiction, film and popular culture. A wide-ranging number of representative sources portraying psychiatrists are explored. It is demonstrated that psychiatry is overwhelmingly presented in a damagingly negative light.

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Copyright
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Corresponding author
Jacqueline Hopson (j.hopson@sheffield.ac.uk)
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Declaration of interest

None.

Footnotes
References
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1 Rajagopal, S, Rehill, KS, Godfrey, E. Psychiatry as a career choice compared with other specialties: a survey of medical students. Psychiatr Bull 2004; 28: 444–6.
2 Sartorius, N, Gaebel, W, Cleveland, H-R, Stuart, H, Akiyama, T, Arboleda-Flórez, J, et al WPA guidance on how to combat stigmatization of psychiatry and psychiatrists. World Psychiatry 2012; 9: 131–44.
3 Harris, T. The Silence of the Lambs. St Martin's Press, 1988.
4 The Silence of the Lambs [Film] Directed by: Jonathan Demme. USA: Orion Pictures, 1991.
5 Packard, EPW. The Prisoner's Hidden Life, Insane Asylums Unveiled. Case, A. B., 1868.
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9 Rhinehart, L. The Dice Man. William Morrow, 1971.
10 Glendinning, V. Electricity. Hutchinson, 1995.
11 Kesey, K. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Viking Press & Signet Books, 1962.
12 One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest [Film] Directed by: Milo Forman. USA: United Artists, 1975.
13 Ward, MJ. The Snake Pit. Random House, 1946.
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BJPsych Bulletin
  • ISSN: 2053-4868
  • EISSN: 2053-4876
  • URL: /core/journals/bjpsych-bulletin
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The demonisation of psychiatrists in fiction (and why real psychiatrists might want to do something about it)

  • Jacqueline Hopson (a1)
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eLetters

Mainstream media today: the contemporary challenge in rebranding modern psychiatry

Phoebe Collins, F2 Doctor
12 September 2014

While the issue of stigmatization of psychiatry and psychiatrists is an issue requiring attention today, the demonization of psychiatrists in fiction - written fiction - is an unashamedly historical piece (1). Novels andcomics discussed were published in 1868, 1923, 1946, 1951, 1952, 1954, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1971, 1976, 1988, 1995, 1996, 2001 and 2008. Many describe a bygone era for society and for psychiatry. In addition, while they may make powerful reading, many have gained comparatively few readers; while the name Hannibal Lector has reached the mainstream, only an elite group of literature aficionados might be influenced by JacquelineRoy's The Fat Lady Sings. I would like to point the reader towards mainstream Hollywood thriller Side Effects, released in 2013. There the hero is a psychiatrist played byJude Law, who struggles against unjust persecution and eventually triumphs; one could scarcely wish for a more handsome, famous or successful actor to represent their profession. Total box office gross takings topped $63 million - so we can assume that millions of cinema-goerspaid to enjoy (and be influenced by) this film - and the movie was equallypopular with critics. What about the Channel 4 Goes Mad season in 2012 - supported by MIND and the Time to Change campaign? Or the recent blanket coverage, virtually all sympathetic, of the mental illness suffered by Robin Williams before his suicide? While media-driven stigmatization of psychiatry continues to challenge patients and psychiatrists, engagement with the populist, mainstream contemporary media is essential. It may not be the same media enjoyed by highly educated, erudite psychiatrists but mainstream media is a powerful force which influences vast numbers of people from all walks of life. To harness its power, we first need to tune in. Then we need to participate because if we don't, the cultural conversation will continue without our voices being heard.

Reference:

1. Hopson J. The demonisation of psychiatrists in fiction (and why real psychiatrists might want to do something about it)Psychiatric Bulletin 2014; 38: 175-179

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Conflict of interest: Before studying medicine, I worked for over a decade in the media, as an Executive Producer of radio documentaries for the BBC and then a Producer/Director of populist documentaries such as Supernanny, broadcast in the UK and all over the world.

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