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NFPs up in arms with Hollywood

2 min read

Mental health not-for-profits are up in arms over the recent release of the film ‘Split’.

M. Night Shyamalan’s thriller Split hit cinema screens on Australia day. The film is about a man with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) – formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder – with 24 different personalities who kidnaps and terrorises three young teenage girls. The main character, Kevin, with DID is portrayed as a sociopath with violent urges and sadistic tendencies.

“The truth is, DID is a serious and debilitating condition, and generally surfaces as a result of continual and severe childhood trauma, including child abuse and neglect,” said Dr Cathy Kezelman, President of Blue Knot Foundation.

“For the person experiencing it, self-loathing is a common feature, rather than sociopathic violence. People affected are no more likely to perpetrate violence than the general population. Having a film that stereotypes and sensationalises those that struggle with mental illness, only adds to the stigma attached with such a disorder.”

A soon-to-be published research paper titled “Mental Illness and Violent Behavior: The Role of Dissociation” by Webermann and Brand in the Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotion Dysregulation journal, found that of 173 individuals in treatment for DID or a similar disorder, only 3 per cent reported having been charged with an offense in the past six months, while 1.8 per cent were fined, and 0.6 per cent were incarcerated in the time period.

“Split is a gross generalisation of DID and its messages can be potentially damaging. While there has been a lot more research into dissociative disorders of late, DID needs to be further understood and this film only perpetuates, rather than debunks the myths surrounding this disorder,” said Kezelman.

Jack Heath, CEO, SANE, said,”I’m frustrated. Yet again, we’ve seen another film released that reinforces the notion we need to fear people living with complex mental illness.”

“The film trivialises complex mental illness and reinforces the inaccurate and harmful notion we need to fear people living with complex mental illness, in this case, dissociative identity disorder,” said Heath.

“We need to see Australia make a strong commitment to reducing the stigma surrounding complex mental illness by committing to a multi-year, multifaceted stigma reduction program.”


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