I was watching a detective show the other day and was less than impressed with the detective-work being shown in the story for a few reasons, most of which were related to the depiction of the mentally ill.
The plot of the detective story that I watched was fairly basic. Someone suspected that a strange neighbor who was supposedly mentally ill was going to go out and kill people in the neighborhood. In response, the police detectives placed the team of forensic psychologists on the case.
First, the suspect’s computer was searched to find any incriminating information. The problem with this was that the suspect wasn’t in fact suspected of committing any crimes. He had never committed any criminal activities, and wasn’t under suspicion for any criminal activities, so the search of his computer was illegal.
Second, the forensic psychologists' analysis seemed a little off-base to me. The forensic psychologists' analysis of the situation made it clear that the lines, “I”m not a doctor, but I play one on TV” are for a reason. The analysis made absolutely no sense. The analysis was supposed to show that the suspects’ journal indicated that he really had several different personalities because he used different tenses and pronouns in his writing. This, in turn, meant obviously that he was going to go out into his neighborhood and shoot everyone within a certain radius.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to recognize that that doesn’t make sense.
I was aghast. Not because the TV show was stupid, but because the TV show was reinforcing ideas about the mentally ill and crime. The idea that someone could perform break into someone’s computer to supposedly predict crimes that might or might happen is also repellant on many different levels.
The correlation between the strange use of tenses leading to serious kinds of crime was bizarre. I’ve never heard of that particular link before.
It is not illegal to be mentally ill in the United States of America, which is a good thing, since the DSM makes it clear that there are so many people who are suffering from a mental illness whether they are aware of it or not. That said, shows like this put a stigma of fear into the general public by spreading misinformation about mental illness.
The TV show was spreading fear about the mentally ill at a time when many social services for the mentally ill are being cut off.