When portraying mental illness and psychotherapy, the media tends to get it wrong — a lot — which has far-reaching results. Inaccurate depictions fuel stigma and may prevent people from seeking help. “There are people out there who could benefit from therapy but don’t go because they think it’s just for ‘crazy’ people or think all therapists are nuts — because that’s what they see in the media,” said Ryan Howes, Ph.D, a psychologist, writer and professor in Pasadena, California.

When a tragic or violent act happens, the news media tends to exaggerate mental illness and depict it negatively, according to Jeffrey Sumber, MA, LCPC, a Chicago psychotherapist, author and teacher. “In circumstances such as a school shooting or the Giffords shooting, the person’s mental illness is portrayed as something dark and dangerous,” he noted.

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