Empathy and portrayals of mental illness in Australian visual culture

Empathy is known to be an essential ingredient for reducing negative perceptions, misunderstandings and changing social attitudes around highly stigmatised groups such as people living with psychiatric disability (otherwise referred to in the literature as mental illnesses). Film and television (termed herein visual culture) play a critical role in this.
This project examines the ways in which mental illness is portrayed in Australian film and television and the role of visual art in representing lived experiences of mental illness. Art, screen-based education programs and digital storytelling projects that empower mental health consumers to tell their own stories will be examined to explore the role of visual culture in the development of individual and communal empathy and how it may reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.

This research was funded by the Melbourne Social Equity Institute as part of the Disability Research Initiative's 2015 seed round.


Barbara Creed [School of Culture & Communication, Faculty of Arts, UoM]

Lisa Brophy [Centre for Mental Health, Medicine, Dental and Health Sciences, UoM]

Anthony White [School of Culture & Communication, Faculty of Arts, UoM]

Fincina Hopgood [Screen Studies, School of Culture & Communication, Faculty of Arts, UoM]

Robyn Thompson [SANE Australia]

Penelope Lee [The Dax Centre]