Ali took part in a RespectAbility panel on mental health in media as part of Mental Health Awareness Month. MacLean, an advocate for mental health awareness, is the author of the award-winning play She’s Not There, about a woman struggling to contain her depression while beginning a new relationship.
RespectAbility is a founding partner in the first-ever Mental Health Action Day, held on Thursday, May 20, spearheaded by MTV Entertainment Group alongside nearly 200 additional brands, nonprofits and cultural leaders.
Though more people than ever are comfortable discussing mental health, suicide rates over the last two decades have still risen, particularly among young adults, and finding effective resources and knowing how to get help remains a challenge.
The panel discussed the importance of portraying mental health accurately and authentically in TV, film, and other forms of media, especially as a means to create awareness and serve as a first step to systemic change. MacLean was among other panelists Nikki Bailey (comedian, actress, author, and producer), Diego Kusnir (writer and psychologist), Amanda Burdine (screenwriter), and moderator by Tatiana Lee.
Some of Ali’s quotes from the discussion
“Mental Illness is often heightened in media. If you don’t tell the truth of what it’s really like, no one will really learn. The small things aren’t shown on TV. Meds changing, not being able to manage money, having it interfere with relationships. Mental illness can blow a relationship apart or show you’re in the right one…”
“I wrote a play about how depression can interfere with relationships because others don’t understand. The third party is the mental illness and they have to date both.”
“Men in media who are mentally ill are normally seen as serial killers. There is a component of violence because they can’t be seen as weak. Women are normally seen as a mess, the “crazy ex-girlfriend.” In Hollywood, a man who can’t get over a relationship is the leading man in a romcom standing outside window with a boom box.”
“Mental health is a non-visible disability. In the past, you would never show any weakness in the writers room. Pretending to be fine, in fear of losing your job is an added pressure. Everyone is pretending to be strong, or fine… no one feels that they can be vulnerable or truthful. I think many people just push through it instead of saying this is real; I need you to be patient with me.”
Re: self care. “I make sure I eat, I use my Peloton bike. And everyday make your bed, so you don’t go back in it!”
To see the live transcript in a separate window during the live airing of this panel, view here: https://carolinascaptioning.1capapp.com/event/respectability.