3 Movies That Will Help You Understand Mental Illness

One in five adults in the United States experiences mental illness annually, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Moreover, over one in six children and teens aged 6 to 17 face a mental health disorder yearly. However, it’s still a topic that a lot of people don’t understand correctly.

Mental illness is mired in stereotypes and stigmatization that people living with it are always feel left out and misunderstood. Stigmatization, according to the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, is characterized as negative beliefs and attitudes that drive the public to fear, avoid, and discriminate against people who live with mental health.

Misunderstanding mental illness has far-reaching consequences, too. A person with untreated mental illness, according to the Central for Disease Control and Prevention’s BRFSS Mental Illness Stigma Report. May find it hard to finish school and find a good paying job. This situation can damage their self-esteem further and experience more intense symptoms.

Simply misinterpreting the effects of mental illness can worsen it for someone living with it. Apart from reading pamphlets and watching educational videos, you can understand your loved one’s condition through literature. Movies can provide both entertainment and education.They’re more accessible, too with Netflix and Amazon’s Prime Video service. When it comes to touchy subjects like mental health, however, a lot of titles have done more harm than good. Popular flicks like Joker (2019) and shows like 13 Reasons Why have been criticized for their inaccurate and even downright harmful depictions of mental illness.

So what great movies can you watch to understand mental illness better?

Beautiful Boy (2018)

This movie was based on the real-life events and biographical accounts of David Scheff and his son Nicholas Scheff. It explored the ups and downs of the complex relationship between David and Nic, as the latter lived with a crystal meth addiction. It showed how difficult it was to get sober, even with rehabilitation and conveyed the harmful effects of crystal meth to the brain. Treatment for this is entirely different from rehab for cocaine and other less potent drugs.;

It also depicted the different effects of addiction to the people close to the person living with it. Parents and other loved ones could empathize with the desperation that David felt as he searched for the best ways to bring his son home safe and sober.; This is further accentuated by flashbacks of the father and son during Nic’s childhood and teenage years.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story (2010)

“It’s Kind of a Funny Story” follows Craig, a 16-year old who checks himself into a psychiatric ward because of his recent suicide attempt and his long-time bout with depression. This film is a comedy, but it’s filled with accurate depictions of what it’s like to live in a mental facility. It also features genuine, heartfelt, and relatable moments between the characters, as they navigate their mental illnesses with treatment, humor, and camaraderie. People who are admitted into psychiatric wards are regular folks who want nothing more but to get help for their mental illnesses.

This was adapted from a novel by Ned Vizzini, but the movie stays faithful to the source material and features amazing performances by well-known actors like Emma Roberts, Viola Davis, Zach Galafanakis, Zoe Kravitz, Keir Gilchrist, and more.

A Beautiful Mind (2001)

“A Beautiful Mind” is based on the real life of the brilliant Dr. John Forbes Nash Jr., a genius mathematician and brilliant Princeton University professor who made significant contributions to differential geometry, partial differential equations, and game theory. He also lived with paranoid schizophrenia, which causes a person to experience delusions and hallucinations that blur the line between reality and the person’s delusions.

The film, which premiered in 2001, was lauded not only for its plot and acting, but also for its accurate depiction of people living with paranoid schizophrenia.

Sure, it followed a true to life story, but the effects of the mental illness are often difficult to express visually. NAMI called it “a historic, authentic movement.” Its executive director at the time stated that screenwriter Akiva Goldsman and Russell Crowe provided a realistic and essential portrayal of paranoid schizophrenia. And that for their community and members, it hits close to home and speaks a lot of truths. An analysis of the movie published by The Ohio State University’s “Disability in Media Review Blog” stated that though the scenes weren’t always accurate, the facts and science stated in the movie were correct for its period.

Mental illness is often difficult to talk about. But with how prevalent it is across the country, it’s definitely essential for everyone to understand. Navigate the complexities of mental illness and the humanity of those living with it through these critically and scientifically-acclaimed movies.

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