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Wizzerkat

It's All In Your Head-Soaps and Mental Health

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I have been reading about mental health issues lately and I thought it might be interesting to have a topic on this subject. I have too often cringed in the past at how soaps sometimes handle these things. So often it seems to me, they use it more to get characters off the canvas than really having a good storyline.

What are your opinions on the best and/or worst mental health storylines? Who plays/played "crazy" best? Is there a mental health related story you would like to see soaps tackle(and do it right)? Are there any soap characters past or present you thought should be been diagnosed with a mental illness? I may think of more questions later :)

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I haven't seen a lot of these stories b/c they are WAY before my time but I have read them and I tend to enjoy mental health stories from the 50s to 70s. We at least got to see their slow descent into illness or madness. Like Vicki Lord on OLTL. From reading about her backstory, it seems like her getting DID was well written and acted.

Same with the little I've seen of Jennifer Pace (SFT) too. It wasn't something that just popped up. Her descent into madness was well written and shocking for its time.

Of stories that I've seen all the way through, I'd say AW's Sharlene DID story was a good mental health story. I know some didn't enjoy it but I did.

A mental health story I would've liked to have seen was bipolar disorder, however, Y&R effed that up with Sharon. It became more about Sharon landing a Newman man (either Nick or Adam) then her finding peace. I'm too the point that I don't want soaps to deal with mental health stories anymore because they are used as excuses for villainous characters or insta-plots for shock value. They no longer educate the audience like they use to.

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I am not a fan of mental health stories on soaps. I don't think the writers can ever truly give an accurate story on this topic, and often the actors are left to cliche screaming and whatnot. I have a relative who is not quite all there and none of that ensues. They repeat themselves ad nauseum and refuse to acknowledge they said the same things repeatedly 5 minutes ago, yesterday and last month and year, but there are no hysterics. I imagine every patient is different, except on soaps where they sort of all develop the same symptoms.

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I don't watch GH so I have a question: does Sonny's bi-polar just come out as a plot device or is it also addressed at other times? Considering the actor has it also I would think they would at least occasionally address it when it is not necessary for plot.

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Soaps don't write mental illness. Soaps write psychos either for comic effect or as bad guys. The problem with writing mental illness is that it has to be a fairly long term thing so it's easier to write loonies or supervillains.

One scene that's always stayed with me, however, is Roxy Shayne's nervous breakdown on GH. So much of the focus had been on Johnny's cancer that when he finally took a turn for the better I thought the worst was over. That's when Roxy completely fell apart. Kristi Ferrell gave such a raw performance as she recounted what it was like to prepare to watch her boyfriend die then she started talking about seeing angels and watching his spirit rise as she became more and more manic and delusional and then she wanted to leap out the window after the angels. That scene was even more powerful because she fell apart in front of one person, Rick. Now most soap psychos have big scenes in front of the entire town usually when they are holding someone hostage.

But even then, years later they mentioned that Roxie was still living in various facilities instead of saying that she got better because that's what mental illness is on soaps: it's the end of the road for a character. Soaps don't/can't/won't write people living and functioning with mental illness. Mental illness is always the exit strategy

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One of the best had to be Cathy Craig on OLTL in the 1970's. From what I've seen, they had her go realistically through mental health programs and procedures.

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Soaps don't write mental illness. Soaps write psychos either for comic effect or as bad guys. The problem with writing mental illness is that it has to be a fairly long term thing so it's easier to write loonies or supervillains.

Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

A realistic mental health story would require a great deal of subtlety and patience, and I'm not sure the payoff would be worth it. I've been depressed before - it's not entertaining.

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Most modern soaps play mental illness for entertainment value, not from an informative angle. It has lead to some fun, exciting storylines, and an easy explanation for people going way out of character, but it's hardly ever played out from a truly mental health storyline.

On GH, Sonny's bipolar disorder wasn't used for just a plot device, but it has been treated that way in recent years. Tony had a slow descent into a depression that came to a psychotic break, but they spent little time covering him going through treatment and trying to rebuild his life. Laura has had several breakdowns, including being reduced to a catatonic state. Which did provide good material for Lulu from the perspective of a child with a parent with mental illness, but nothing on Laura's treatment. Heather was a sociopath before she drank that LSD meant for Diana, which lead to a clear break with reality. Kevin seeking help after he stalked Felicia was the last time I recall a major character had a mental illness that was played out in a way that did not ruin the character.

On Days, I felt they did a good job showing Laura attempting to get back to her life after years of being institutionalized and estranged from her family.

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Eh, mental health issues as a storyline - why bother? Soaps are an escape. During the 70s to early 90s, soaps were an effective platform to educate people on certain social issues - but that was before people had access to the internet and hundreds of TV channels. Now when things like Sharon's bi-polar is brought in, it's more of a rationalization than anything else. I mean, if a MAN did all the things Sharon did.... (Plus, they then used it to gaslight Sharon into getting her brain fried for absolutely no reason, except to extend the story until the could recast Phyllis.) Anyway, look at how B&B just handled Quinn's "mental health" issue - by (allegedly) sending her away for "treatment." It's a bit offensive considering that she "came" back and proceeding to push Ivy off a bridge.

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I haven't seen a good mental health storyline on a soap opera. It's really difficult to write a good one, because it would actually require research and effort to make it authentic. A good storyline would involve taking a long term character, having them be diagnosed, go through the most difficult stages and then start recovering, but still be permanently changed from the illness. That takes some serious writing skill and I don't think most soap writers have it in them. As already mentioned, it's a plot device, but one that is used almost comically.

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I haven't seen a good mental health storyline on a soap opera. It's really difficult to write a good one, because it would actually require research and effort to make it authentic. A good storyline would involve taking a long term character, having them be diagnosed, go through the most difficult stages and then start recovering, but still be permanently changed from the illness. That takes some serious writing skill and I don't think most soap writers have it in them. As already mentioned, it's a plot device, but one that is used almost comically.

The current soap writers don't have the skill and/or intelligence for it and the audience doesn't have the patience and SOME don't have the intelligence

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