SAMHSA’s Resource Center to Promote Acceptance,
Dignity and Social Inclusion Associated with
Mental Health (ADS Center)
Entertainment Industries Council (EIC)
The Entertainment Industries Council, Inc. (EIC) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1983 by leaders in the entertainment industry to provide information, awareness, and understanding of major health and social issues among the entertainment industries and to audiences at large. Among its initiatives is an effort to promote accurate and positive portrayals of people with mental illnesses.
The entertainment media, particularly movies and television, are influential in shaping public perception. A 2001 study published in Health Affairs (a bimonthly, peer-reviewed journal that explores health policy) indicated that television substantially increased awareness of health care issues, at least in the short term. Unfortunately, when it comes to portraying people with mental illnesses, the media has too frequently provided the public with damaging stereotypes. A 1998 study published by the Screen Actors Guild revealed that more than 60 percent of characters with mental illnesses were portrayed as violent, a rate three times that of other characters.
In 2006, EIC convened national mental health leaders at the National Association of Broadcasters meeting, Picture This, to discuss concerns and challenges surrounding the accurate portrayal of bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. The meeting featured three experienced entertainment writers who explained the challenges and opportunities related to incorporating science-based information into entertainment productions. EIC published Picture This: Bipolar Disorder in late 2006 and issued this publication to entertainment writers to use as a reference when depicting bipolar disorder onscreen.
EIC also hosted a conference for producers, directors, writers, and network and studio executives to educate them about mental health issues. The EIC president and chief executive officer also has lectured on engaging the media to promote awareness of and support for mental health issues.
The entertainment industry is featuring an increasing number of positive and accurate portrayals of people with mental illnesses. Examples include Sally Fields portrayal of a character with bipolar disorder on ER and a man with schizophrenia who is a victim of crime rather than a perpetrator on Law and Order: SVU.
EIC will continue its mental health depiction initiative into the coming year and beyond.
Most recently, the EIC created the Entertainment & Media Communication Institute with the goal of "fostering developmental interdisciplinary activities in: health, education, and social sciences, communications research and theory, cultural studies, environmental strategies and information technology. Activities will address commercial and noncommercial media opportunities to promote the well-being of the public and enhance the pro-social impact of entertainment and other media."
For additional information about the EIC and their mental health depiction initiative, you may contact David Conner, editor/writer and publications manager at Entertainment Industries Council, Inc., 1856 Old Reston Avenue, Suite 215, Reston, VA 20190; Phone: 703-481-1414; Fax: 703-481-1418; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additional information about the mental health depiction initiative can be accessed at www.eiconline.org/resources/topicareas/mentalhealth.php.