Books about Mental Illness and the Media 

Brandell, J.R. (editor) (2004). Celluloid Couches, Cinematic Clients: Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy in the Movies. New York: State University of New York Press.

With contributions from psychoanalysts, therapists, and authors of literature and cinema studies, this book explores how therapy and therapists have been portrayed in movies over the past 75 years. It offers an opportunity to explore themes and issues from a different reference point by asking what can be learned about the professional self and the nature of the therapeutic process from the movies.

Fleming, M. & Manvell, R. (1985). Images of Madness: The Portrayal of Insanity in the Feature Film. New Jersey: Associated University Presses, Inc.

This book provides a fully researched assessment of the American and European Cinema's portrayal of insanity in feature films. The first part of the book defines and discusses the major themes of madness from the perspective of psychiatric therapy and practice in reference to the times. The second part of the book provides notes and critical comments on 150 some feature films dealing with insanity.

Gabbard, Glen & Gabbard, Krin.  Psychiatry and the cinema, 2nd ed.  Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press, 1999.

This book traces the history of depiction of psychiatry in the movies, noting connections between these depictions and broader sociocultural issues and changes.  The focus is on the psychiatrist/therapist rather than on the people with psychiatric disorders whom they serve.  The book also contains a large section that considers films and film themes from a psychodynamic perspective, and it ends with an extensive filmography of movies with psychiatric themes.

Montgomery, K.  Target Prime Time: Advocacy Groups and the Struggle Over Entertainment TV. Oxford University Press, 1989.

This book is actually not about mental illnesses nor about television depiction of mental illnesses.  However, in detailing how racial, ethnic, and gender groups advocated for improved representation on television, the author provides information that may be useful to advocates interested in similarly improving the TV image of mental illnesses.  Mental health advocates could learn from the strategies, successes, and failures documented in this book to inform their own efforts to influence the entertainment media.

Morris, G. Mental health issues and the media: An introduction for health professionals.  New York: Routledge Press, 2006.

The author explores the ways attitudes, including those of mental health professionals, may be shaped by the media in both positive and negative ways.  He explores a variety of media, including news, film, literature, television, and the internet, and present ideas about how mental health professionals might better interact with the media to improve its consideration of mental health issues.


Philo, Greg (Ed.).  Media and Mental Distress.  Great Britain: Addison Wesley Longman Limited, 1996.

This is a book put together by the Glasgow Media Group and contains a number of papers detailing research in Great Britain related to the media depiction of mental illness.  It examines media content (and shows that the U.S. is hardly alone in media stigmatization of mental illness) and the response of various focus group audiences to selected media depictions to better understand how media presentations may influence public attitudes about mental illness.

Robinson, David J.  Reel psychiatry: Movie portrayals of psychiatric conditions. Michigan: Rapid Psychler Press, 2003.

This book catalogs movie depictions of psychiatric conditions.  It is organized by psychiatric diagnosis.  Each chapter provides a description of the defining features of the diagnosis and a number of films that depict the specific disorder, noting how the film’s characters fit the diagnostic criteria.  The book may be useful for people seeking to use films to educate about mental illnesses.


Wahl, Otto F. Media Madness: Public Images of Mental Illness. New Brunswick, NJ.: Rutgers University Press, 1995.

The author, a clinical psychologist and university professor, details the frequency, nature, and impact of mass media depictions of mental illness. He includes many examples from film, television, books, newspapers, and other media. In addition, efforts to improve media portrayal of mental illness are described.  For more information about this book, click on the title above.

Wedding, Danny  Movies And Mental Illness: Using Films To Understand Psychotherapy