Actors Sound Off On Hollywood’s Changing Portrayal Of Mental Health Issues

By Victoria Kim 06/09/17

During the JED Foundation Gala, actors opened up about the evolution of mental health on movies and TV shows.

Teen Wolf's Tyler Posey and Big Bang Theory's Mayim Bialik
Teen Wolf's Tyler Posey and Big Bang Theory's Mayim Bialik

“Mental health” is becoming something of a buzzword lately—especially with all the attention mental health issues have been getting from high-profile celebrities like Demi Lovato and Michael Phelps.

At the 16th annual JED Foundation Gala in New York City on Monday (June 5), Page Six caught up with some young actors who are passionate about the cause.

“Every single person in the world has a connection to it,” said Teen Wolf actor Tyler Posey, who said a good therapist can be a life changer. “It’s still one of those taboo kind of new things that Hollywood isn’t quite comfortable with but they’re getting more and more. Slowly but surely.”

The JED Foundation was founded in 2000 after the suicide of the founders’ son Jed, and to advocate for the betterment of mental health support for teens and young adults on Jed’s behalf. The non-profit works to educate college campuses on suicide prevention, and provides mental health resources for young people.

One drama series that’s garnered some controversy due to the graphic nature of the show and its subject matter, teen suicide, is 13 Reasons Why on Netflix.

Posey says that despite the controversy surrounding the show, it’s good that people are talking about the issues. The 25-year-old actor says Hollywood’s portrayal of mental health issues isn’t perfect, but he’s seen a lot of change since he first started acting in 2000.

“Even if there is a controversy people are still talking about it,” he told Page Six. “I’ve been [acting] for about 20 years, and even in that span of time there’s been a big improvement…Even if [Hollywood] doesn’t accurately depict every mental health illness and situation, it still gets awareness out. You’re still talking about it.”

Tommy Dorfman, who plays Ryan Shaver on 13 Reasons Why, was also at the JED gala. “The more conversations we’re having, the more we can all learn from those and hopefully implement that into future works in Hollywood and film and TV and the media in general,” he said. Dorfman said that by portraying teen suicide, sexual assault, and bullying, the show is, at the same time, offering hope and resources to viewers going through the same issues.

Finally, actress, neuroscientist and host of the JED gala, Mayim Bialik—who you may remember from the '90s TV show Blossom or The Big Bang Theory—confirmed that mainstream depictions of mental illness in TV and films are indeed evolving.

“I think that we’re finally starting to see Hollywood portray individuals with mental health issues as completed people and not just something to dismiss as ‘that’s a psycho crazy person,’” she said, according to Page Six

Hollywood’s still got a long way to go, but Bialik said, “I do think there’s definitely been an improvement to show people with mental illness as also having productive lives and also having other complications to their personality, but not just making it a punchline.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr