10 Movies That Talk Sensitively About Mental Health – Have You Watched Them All?

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10 Movies That Talk Sensitively About Mental Health - Have You Watched Them All?

Movies play a very important role when it comes to sensitization. Too often, mental health concerns have been trivialized and distorted on the silver screen which has just added to the stigma.

Today however, we are looking at some movies that have got it right. So, let’s jump right in.

1. Inside Out

Inside out - 10 movies for mental health

This quirky animation personifies the different emotions inside a young girl’s mind. Characters Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust try to help Riley through her family’s move to San Francisco. Inside Out is a clever, modern and well-made film that helps us look at mental health from a new lens. 

This movie was developed with the guidance of University of California, Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner which goes to show why this film gets a lot of things right about our emotions. This movie has indeed helped a lot of parents and child counselors start a conversation with their children and clients respectively. Dr Colman Noctor, Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist at St Patrick’s Mental Health Services, states – “One of the core concepts of any therapy is to facilitate a person to put words or meaning on feelings, which can be a significant challenge. Once we can name a feeling, we can begin to understand it, and when we understand it, we can begin to deal with it.”

2. A Beautiful Mind

A beautiful mind - 10 movies for mental health

A Beautiful Mind, based on a true story, highlights the life of John Forbes Nash, Jr. (Russel Crowe), a mathematician who lived with schizophrenia. The movie beautifully captures the challenges John faced throughout his life, including paranoia and delusions that altered his promising career and deeply affected his life. 

An in-depth analysis was done by Dr. Edward Shorter and he states – “We won’t know anything for sure because as yet we haven’t done the required unpacking and don’t have reliable new categories for classifying chronic illness: Some have to stay on medication, others don’t. Some get well, others don’t. These are not all the same illness! But at least we can stop chanting that Nash had “schizophrenia,” when in fact we don’t actually know what he had.” There is definitely some debate around this and the movie is an interesting watch indeed.

3. Still Alice

Still Alice - movies for mental health

This is a heartbreaking portrait of a vibrant, active, 50-year-old linguistics professor named Alice, played by Julianne Moore, who receives a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. A very hard hitting scene is where Alice gives a speech at an Alzheimer’s conference highlighting the cruel reality of losing one’s memories and with it one’s identity.

Julianne Moore, the actress who brought Alice to live says, “I don’t think there’s enough information. I think an idea still stands that Alzheimer’s is all about memory. One of the things I found is that people often simply feel lost. Alzheimer’s is more akin to an ongoing panic attack where suddenly nothing has any reference. It’s like having to cut through fog every day.”

This is not an easy watch, nor should it be.

4. Dear Zindagi

Dear Zindagi - movies for mental health

Dear Zindagi follows Kiara who couldn’t sleep for three days and thus decides to go to Dr. Jehangir Khan for therapy. She eventually comes to term with her trauma and emotions embracing life for what it is.

The movie throws light on childhood trauma and how incidents that occur in the first few years of our lives can shape the way we perceive the world. It also normalizes therapy.

It depicts the therapist-client relationship in a novel and nuanced manner. It communicates the fact that a therapist’s job is to help a client help themselves. It is not their job to solve all their problems but help them understand how to do that for themselves. Therapy is a difficult process and takes a lot of time and effort, but this film will definitely change the way you look at it.

5. Anjali 

Anjali - 10 movies for mental health

The film deals with the story of a dying mentally disabled child, and the emotional trauma experienced by her family. Through the screenplay, Mani highlights the mental pain and challenges the parents undergo in bringing up a child with intellectual disability in a judgmental society like ours.

This movie also gives hopes to parents who have children with disabilities. “My father learnt a lot about accepting a child with special needs when he watched it, soon after I was born.” said a psychologist who was born with cerebral palsy, around the time when the movie was released.

Anjali was way ahead of its time and has provided solace to a lot of people.

6. Perks of Being a Wallflower

the perks of being a wallflower - movies for mental health

After being hospitalized for the summer after his best friend dies by suicide, Charlie who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), is about to embark on his first year of high school. This is not easy. He fears being known as the weird kid who was hospitalized for the summer and not having any friends. 

Luckily, he becomes friends with a group of charismatic seniors, including Sam and Patrick. His friends bring joy to his life, but his inner turmoil reaches a high when they prepare to leave for college. This movie deals with important issues including childhood trauma, PTSD, anxiety and adolescence.

7. Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook

If you have watched this movie, you know exactly why this is on the list. The film follows Pat and Tiffany, who suffer from Bipolar disorder and an unnamed mental illness respectively. The movie is a refreshing take on an often stigmatized topic of discussion and represents a range of emotions that often occur with bipolar disorder in a real and riveting way. 

Director David O. Russel told an interviewer associated with NAMI that “I want people to come out feeling that it was a good movie. Part of that is feeling less afraid of talking about and dealing with and being warm and human about mental illness challenges—and wanting to do more.”

8. Melancholia 

Melancholia - movies for mental health

Melancholia paints a very realistic picture of how depressed people face adversity or disaster with a sense of peacefulness. Justine, played by Kirsten Dunst, slips deeper and deeper into a severe type of depression with each passing day. The movie takes you on a cinematic roller coaster ride and is heartbreakingly real.

Lars Von Trier, the director, was apparently in treatment for the depression that has haunted him in recent years. A therapist told him a theory that depressives and melancholics act more calmly in violent situations, while “ordinary, happy” people are more apt to panic. Melancholics are ready for it. They already know everything is going to hell. This is where the idea of the film emerged from.

9. Girl, Interrupted

Girl Interrupted - movies for mental health

Let me ask you a question – what does “crazy” mean? Girl, Interrupted is a film portraying a young female in the 1960s struggling with the uncertainty of her own mental illness. With the persuasion of her parents, Susanna Kayson admits herself into a psychiatric institution and is later diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. As she enters the mental hospital, she begins to unravel herself.

“Crazy isn’t being broken, or swallowing a dark secret. It’s you or me… amplified.”

This quote makes us realize that we are not broken messes or lost causes. We are definitely not damaged goods, we’re just people trying to navigate through the chaos called life.

10. It’s Kind of a Funny Story –

its kind of a funny story - 10 movies for mental health

The story revolves around 16-year-old Craig Gilner, who decides to check himself into a psychiatric ward after nights of contemplating his own death. 

“It’s Kind of a Funny Story” is one of the most honest teen-oriented films out there that tries to deal with a sensitive topic like depression in a very relatable way. High school is a difficult time for many students. The constant comparison to peers in real life and on social media, endless pursuit to reach often unrealistic goals and the pressure to lead a socially polished life is bound to take a toll on you. It is no surprise that teenage depression and suicides are on the rise. 

In times like these, such films really do help. 

These were our top 10 picks for the day but we are sure that there are more such movies out there – movies that are changing the way we look at mental illnesses and passing the mic to those who have survived.

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments section and who knows, we might just create another blog post.

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