6 Must-see movies that portray mental health issues

Depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder - mental illness can take many forms, and it's more common here in the UK than you might think. Did you know that 1 in 4, or a quarter of people, will be affected by mental health problems over the course of a year? Women are more likely to seek treatment for a mental health problem than men, and the UK has one of the highest rates in Europe when it comes to self-harm - 400 in 100,000 (1).

The media seems to have a fascination with mental illness, particularly the movie industry, and it has been portrayed in films of every genre, from romantic comedy to thriller and horror films. Some portrayals are touchingly accurate - others depict mental illness in a less than positive light. The way mental health issues are depicted in the movies is often sensationalised for entertainment purposes, but nevertheless there are films that we feel are worth a mention when it comes to mental illness. We take a look at a few, and see what the diagnosis is.

#1. Wristcutters: A Love Story (2007)

Whilst it has the potential to be bleak and depressing, this is actually a funny, heartfelt comedy about suicide, a tough topic to broach at the best of times. It touches on something we've all thought about before - if you kill yourself, do you go to heaven or hell? In the film, victims of suicide actually go to an alternative reality that's neither heaven or hell; in fact it's a place that's a lot like the real world, just a bit more depressing. The movie stars Shannyn Sossamon as Mikal, who falls in love with Zia, and is a cute, quirky exploration of their relationship in this new world. It manages to turn a dark subject into something quite beautiful, and if you've been affected by suicide (or even if you haven't), this is well worth a watch.

What's the diagnosis?

Depression, substance abuse and self-harm

#2. Prozac Nation (2001)

Based on Elizabeth Wurtzel's novel of the same name, this 2001 film stars Christina Ricci as Lizzie, a depressed young woman who self-medicates with drugs, sex and alcohol. When therapy doesn't work for her, she spirals out of control until she is finally prescribed a new type of medication called Prozac. Anyone who has ever suffered from depression should find plenty to relate to in this film, and in the book, and it's a positive look at how different treatments can work for different people. Remember that making changes to your lifestyle can help to alleviate mild symptoms of depression - eating healthily, taking plenty of exercise and getting enough sleep can all help, although you should see your GP if your symptoms are affecting your daily life.

What's the diagnosis?

Depression and substance abuse

#3. American Psycho (2000)

A controversial movie when it was released 15 years ago, there may have been plenty of films made about psychopaths, but American Pyscho has to be one of the most interesting portrayals. Ok so at first glance it might seem that Patrick Bateman has violent antisocial tendencies, and it's fair to say that portraying a solid connection between violence and mental illness didn't win the film any fans, but the movie is actually more about the issues that Bateman has separating his violent fantasies from his real life. It's also an interesting look at the obsession with wealth and material possessions, not to mention his obsessive compulsive, control freak nature. The film has become a cult classic, and it's definitely one to check out, whether you have personal experience of any of the film's issues or not.

What's the diagnosis?

Obsessive compulsive disorder, disassociative identity disorder, antisocial personality disorder

#4. Girl, Interrupted (1999)

With an all-star cast headlined by Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie, Clea DuVall and Brittany Murphy, the film is based on author Susanna Kaysen's autobiographical novel which she wrote after spending 18 months in a mental hospital during the 1960s. The film (although some scenes have been sensationalised for entertainment purposes) is as much a true-to-life representation of daily life in an institution as the book, and this honest portrayal won the movie critical acclaim. At times bleak, touching and sad, it's a humanising look at the lives of patients in a mental hospital. Anyone who has ever experienced depression, anxiety or other mental health issues themselves, or has been close to someone who has suffered, will be able to relate to many of the characters in the movie.

What's the diagnosis?

Depression, eating disorders and antisocial personality disorder

#5. Black Swan (2010)

The most recent film in our list, this dark, chilling tale takes a look at the dangers of perfectionism, obsessing over your looks and distorted body image. Black Swan tackles our obsession with appearances, youth and beauty. Natalie Portman plays Nina, a young ballet dancer watched over by her domineering mother, and we see her struggle to embrace the dual roles of the black and white swan on stage. Throughout the film, she's hampered by delusions and mental illness, and whilst it might be clear to us as the viewers, the other characters in the film seem blissfully unaware of her internal struggles. This serves as a reminder to all of us that we never really know what other people are going through. If somebody in your life seems moody or snappy, it may be that they're sad or stressed about something or tackling their own problems. Whilst it's a fairly macabre film, the subjects it touches on helps spread awareness. In the 21st century, our obsession with body image and appearances can create mental issues - think about how many selfies you post and how much time you spend on your appearance - what effect could this have on your mental health?

What's the diagnosis?

Disassociative identity disorder, delusional disorder, eating disorder

#6. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Many consider this to be one of Jack Nicholson's finest films, and it is a classic that you must see, if you haven't already! We recommend a quiet night in with one of our one-pot recipes and this on Netflix or Amazon Instant Video for the perfect antidote to SAD, whether you're single or loved up! Set in a mental institution where lobotomies and electroshock therapy are used on patients, the most positive aspect of this film is the way it humanises the patients. Whether you've been directly affected by anxiety or depression or not, you'll find this portrayal touching, and you'll be rooting for Jack Nicholson's character to escape.

What's the diagnosis?

Antisocial personality disorder

There are plenty of other films out there that depict mental illness - sadly many of them are in the horror and thriller genre and can create a negative image of those suffering from mental health issues. But some offer a fascinating insight into what makes us tick, and why we behave the way we do. Remember that if you're affected by any of the issues in this post, it's a good idea to speak to someone, whether that's a family member, friend, therapist or your GP. There are plenty of treatment options available, from therapy to self-help books and you don't always have to take medication - talking therapy can work wonders for depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and other conditions.

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Works cited:

  1. http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/help-information/mental-health-statistics/


Author By Paula Beaton
Date On 19th Jan 2015 at 13:00

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