Misrepresentation of Mental Illnesses

Misrepresentation of Mental Illnesses by Television Media
To eliminate the partial representation of mental illnesses, television media needs to focus on all sides of this illness. The media needs to show that attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) is a legitimate disorder with effective treatments.

At least one in four families in the U.S. is affected by mental illnesses. Unfortunately there is no cure for this range of illnesses, which have been around for thousands of years. Of the American adult population, 5.4 percent have a serious mental illness. These health conditions are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, behavior, or some combination of these. They are also associated with distress and sometimes impaired functioning. In 1990 the total cost of mental health services in the U.S. was $148 billion.According to a new report by the Mental Health Foundation, one in five children suffer from a mental health problem. Attention deficit hyperactive disorder is a mental illness that is diagnosed mainly in young children and doesnt always disappear in adulthood. All we know is that this genetic, inherited condition ADHD is not due to brain damage at all but rather a variation in how the brain functions.Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) includes symptoms and characteristics that can be placed in one of three categories: inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. These characteristics commonly leave a person with ADHD with lack of attention span, easily distracted, fidgety, struggling to stay seated, having trouble engaging in calm activities, impatient, and talking excessively or out of turn. A new study by researchers says that hyperactive children have behavioral differences due to under active parts of their brain, a biological malfunction, rather than due to way they were brought up. This was revealed by a magnetic scanning device that allowed researchers to look at the brains of children diagnosed with ADHD. These studies and statistics reinforce the claim that mental illnesses are not invented simply to justify drugging of children and a disease that needs be educated to the public for better understanding. Rather, ADHD is an illness that affects many people throughout their lives. This topic is often misunderstood by the public. The media and medical community need to educate the positive side of this controversy and not just show the opposing view, which often times misrepresented by the media.

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According to the current President of Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA), the medication prescribed by a doctor cannot lead to drug abuse and addiction. This statement comes as a result of a CBS 48 Hours television program, that focused on the extreme negative outlook of the treatment of ADHD. The report concluded that the medication was used as a gateway drug. Dr. Peter Jaksa directly stated that he never met anyone, with or without ADHD, who got high from taking ADHD medications as prescribed by their doctor. The medications used to treat ADHD become addictive only if they are abused, and of course there are serious dangers associated with any type of drug abuse. The opposite is true, as many research findings indicate that people treated for ADHD show a lower likelihood of substance abuse when compared to people who have been diagnosed, but not treated.The CBS report did not include this data. The inherent risk of television reporting is that it is focused on finding the fine line of controversy that creates sensational stories. In comparison, details of everyday, ordinary medical success stories are considered boring. CBS focused on a misleading story without emphasizing an important detail. The doctor they featured as their only expert adviser, sells unproven nutritional supplements as a cure for ADHD, and ignores the effectiveness of Ritalin. The report also included the testimony of one individual who began to abuse cocaine and other medication after he discontinued his treatment for ADHD. The ADDA showed serious concerns after this broadcast show because CBS did not present the whole picture.
To focus on the whole picture, the media should show accurate and realistic coverage to avoid spreading myths and fears about ADHF. We need to focus on the truth as stated by Peter Jaksa, Ph.D: ADHD is not a disease or illness, it is not brain damage, and it certainly is not a myth. It is a part of our human genetic legacy, a variation in brain functioning which effects millions of people in this country and around the world. More has to be done to clear up the confusion and controversy surrounding ADHD. This can be achieved with more and better efforts to increase public awareness. The final decision should be in the hands of well-trained physicians who know when to prescribe treatment to the persons who have the need and can also recognize the situations where it is unnecessary and refuse drug treatment to prevent over-prescription.


Mental Illness Education Project, Understand Mental Illness.

Kessler, R.C., et al. 1998. A Methodology for estimating the 12-Month Prevalence of Serious Mental Illness.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 1999. Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Rice, D.P., and L.S. Miller. 1996 The Economic Burden of Schizophrenia: Conceptual and Methodological Issues, and Cost Estimates. In Handbook of Mental Health Economics and Health Policy: Schizophrenia. Vol. 1.

Article released by Medical Research Council, Hyperactive children have different brains
In article released by the Medical Research Council, Hyperactive children have different brains.

Direct statement of Peter Jaksa, Ph.D. President of National Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA)
Study done by University of Buffalo
Statement of Peter Jaksa, Ph.D., President of National Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA)