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[Reporter’s Notebook] TV dramas misportray mental hospitals
  • By Song Soo-youn
  • Published 2019.01.18 15:28
  • Updated 2019.01.18 16:44
  • comments 0

In a dark basement without any light, several rooms are arrayed on both sides of the corridor. Each door has a small, grated window for a look inside. Inside the room, there is not much: just a bed, a sink, and a toilet.

The descriptions might give you a picture of jail, but you got it wrong. This is how TV dramas portray a mental hospital.

In the SBS drama series “The Last Empress,” Emperor Lee Hyuk has imperial head secretary Min Yoo-ra admitted to a psychiatric hospital. The room where Min stays looks like solitary confinement in a jail. Min is not even mentally ill. She is locked in a mental hospital, instead of prison.

Scenes of SBS drama “The Last Empress” portraying a mental hospital

The story is, of course, fictional. Moreover, the drama is set in a hypothetical constitutional monarchy in 2018. The story is far from reality.

However, I still felt intimidated when I watched a scene where a healthy person gets locked in a prison-like mental hospital forcefully. This is problematic because not only this drama but also others are misdescribing mental hospitals. Many movies and dramas portray mental hospitals as gloomy places where you can lock in anyone.

Even though such scenes are fictional, viewers are exposed to a negative perception about being admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

Such a wrong perception makes it difficult for the mentally ill to be admitted to a medical institution and receive the right treatment at the right timing.

After a patient at Kangbuk Samsung Hospital killed psychiatrist Lim Se-won, psychiatrists urged the society to change the perception about mental illness so that patients can receive adequate care.

You might think a TV drama is just a TV drama but what kind of images do you associate with when it comes to a mental hospital? Don’t you picture a patient in a dark room or a person tied to a sickbed?


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