Bipolarity, schizophrenia, borderline disorder: these words can be scary. This includes, in particular, certain films and series that feed the clichés on psychiatric illness. To differentiate the true from the false and to destigmatize mental health, psychiatrist Jean-Victor Blanc wrote the book Pop and psychic. He gives examples of accurate representations of mental illness in pop culture, all embellished by studies, figures and professional experience with his patients. End season 2 of our “Ma tête et moi” program on the mental health of young people, in a meeting with the young psychiatrist employed.
In your book, you explain that movies like Flight over a cuckoo’s nest have had an undeniable impact on our view of psychiatry. What impact does this type of film have on people with mental illness but also on mental health professionals?
It has a major and very negative global impact. My book Pop & Psy It started like this: a young patient, who was under the age of 20, came in for a suicide crisis in the emergency room. I suggest you be hospitalized in our service at Saint-Antoine Hospital. It’s a general hospital, meaning there’s a psychiatric ward, but upstairs it’s cardio, below the hematology. So we are really far from a psychiatric hospital. He offered me a hospital stay and said, “No, I don’t want to be in the movie with Jack Nicholson.” I thought, “It’s crazy that someone under the age of 20 is quoting this movie.” »
This film is really a trauma for the sick and it continues to feed the clichés. Of course, the idea is not to censor or cancel it. It is a beautiful film, which has many meanings. What I regret, however, as a young psychiatrist, is that he has long been the only reference when it comes to mental health.
Precisely, is a change taking place in the film industry?
Yes, massive. Since 2019, when I started the book and lectures on this topic, an incalculable personality name has talked about mental health. Mariah Carey is an evoked son with bipolar problems. Selena Gomez in a speech and a product 13 reasons why. I also had some super strong works, like Happiness Therapywhich has been Oscar-winning or even the phenomenon Euphoria, whose season 2 made a tidal wave. Tout le monde talks about this series, which addresses mental health and addictions.
What I find great is that all sectors are affected today. This is the case with fashion with Isabel Marant who said: “Today, to be a designer, there is so much pressure that you have to do yoga and green beans instead of sex, drugs and rock n “Run”. Athletes have taken it as Naomi Osaka or Simone Biles. There is no sector that is not affected, sensitized, today. This shows that it is much more than a bottom blade. It’s almost like a tidal wave.
Can these public speeches allow for public awareness?
Of course. In the United States, the two most talked about bipolar disorder in the last ten years is when Mariah Carey announced her diagnosis and where Kanye West ran for president. Which shows that there is also an ambivalent side. Because in one case, she was doing it at a time when she said, “I can testify, because I’m fine with my treatment and hospitalization.” In the other case, we have something less mastered and much more complex. But it is certain that speech prices really give visibility to the subject. Much more than a medical discovery or a scientific fact.
Let’s talk about scientific facts. In your book, you explain that many films are full of characters who have symptoms of different pathologies but who do not really reflect any of them. What impact do these choices have on the knowledge of mental illness?
We saw a lot with the film Joker. Certain symptoms of the main character may resemble schizophrenia, but it was not a representative picture. This was also the case with the release of the film cleave. I did a bit of research on the internet about schizophrenia when it came out when it had nothing to do with that condition.
For a long time, the works were pretty pretentious and poorly documented, so what must have been schizophrenia or bipolar disorder didn’t look like much in the end. Today, I find that an effort is being made in the works. They are more documented, more realistic, and often what I find fascinating is that they are worn directly or indirectly by people involved. I am thinking in particular of Euphoria or to the director of the Restless whose father has bipolar disorder or Lily Collins who played in To the bone and who confessed to fighting anorexia for years.
Several studies show that the younger generation is more interested in mental health issues. How do you explain it?
I think there are several factors. First of all, it’s self-sustaining. The fact that an ultra-popular series like Euphoria talking about it makes us talk about the subject. Social networks are even free to passwords on the subject. Before, a young person with bipolar disorder found themselves really isolated from their symptoms, unless they traveled miles to find an association in which there were not necessarily people their age. Today, Internet users may talk about it directly and create communities around subjects that were previously taboo.
And then the last thing is that it’s all in a more global anti-discrimination movement, whether it’s because of gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Everything you said about mental health destigmatization, what are things that have already been worked on by the MeToo movement. The young generation is paying close attention to these questions.
Do you find in your patients that mental health is less taboo among young people?
If we look at things in a macro way, between three generations, we see that the grandparents did not talk about these topics. They said “he went to a nursing home” while undergoing hospitalization in psychiatry or “we do not know what he died” while working on a suicide. For parents, it is a little less taboo and for the last generation it is even less so.
After that, it’s still very stigmatized. Hence the envy with Pop & Psy to change mindsets. Sometimes it is said “this is a fashionable subject” but I assure you that people who have a naked bipolar disorder can not shout it on all the roofs. Of course, when you are Maria Carey, Selena Gomez or Kanye West, it may be a little easier, but the vast majority of people hide their problems at work and those around them.
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