Although Nollywood movies – “Room 315,” “False” – have been doing a better job of portraying mental illness in a more accurate way, most of them are yet to get it right.
The industry still tells stories that misrepresent the realities of mental illness, contributing to the stigma surrounding the condition.
Meaning of Mental illness: Mental illness is a condition which causes serious disorder in a person’s behaviour or thinking.
Pulse Movies has put together five things Nollywood movies often get wrong about mental illness.
1. Everyone struggling with mental illness is dangerous
Most movies portray people battling mental illness as violent or unstable, a stereotype that has lingered for long.
It is important to note that the way mental illness manifests can vary from person to person. While some absorb their symptoms and appear happy on the outside, others are displayed publicly.
2. People with mental illness always look miserable and unwell
We have seen this in several films – a shabbily dressed mad man, picking food from the dustbin, avoided by the public, and on some occasions, made fun of.
In reality, people with mental illnesses can be found anywhere: Hospitals, corporate organizations, malls among others.
3. Mental illness comes from curses
Mental illness is often spiritualized and portrayed as an aftermath of a wrongdoing, or a curse from an evil relative.
In reality, there are several reasons why people battle mental illness – stress at work, family problems – and spirituality is probably the least cause.
4. A pastor/alfa is the only one that can heal a mental illness
A psychiatrist is a medical practitioner who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. In most movies, he never treats any mentally ill patient.
The treatment is mostly handed over to a spiritual leader, who assembles his church members to cast out ‘the demon.’
5. The general understanding of mental illness is the street roaming kind of madness
The above-mentioned points can be summarized in one sentence: generally, our understanding of mental illness is restricted to the popular street roaming kind of madness.
However, there are several conditions recognised as mental illness, including anxiety disorder, mood disorder, eating disorder, Obsessive-compulsive disorder and Post-traumatic disorder.
And people with most of these above-mentioned illnesses are not dangerous to the public, unwell or cursed.
Often than not, our movies are a reflection of our collective thoughts as a society.
And until we broaden our understanding of the term ‘mental illness,” the Nigerian film industry will be littered with films that misrepresent or stereotype the health condition.