Food for thought: 6 movies with realistic depictions of mental health
Mental illness is one of the greatest concerns of our current time, but the stigma built around it prevents those suffering from these disorders to truly come forward and speak about it.
Anxiety and depression affect 15 million adults in the U.S. alone, and medication is often making things worse. In order to change those statistics, we need to change the way we perceive mental illness and understand that those who suffer from it need a lot of support.
We live in a world that is greatly influenced by films and television but finding movies that realistically depict everyday issues can sometimes be difficult. In movies, those suffering from mental issues are often negatively or inaccurately portrayed. We put together a list of 6 movies we think did a great job handling mental illness and the struggles that come with it, regardless of the character plays on the good or bad side.
Girl, Interrupted (1999)
Some may argue that this movie, starring Winona Ryder as Susanna and Angelina Jolie as Lisa, shows some of the worse sides of mental illness, and that is entirely accurate. Jolie’s character, who is considered a sociopath with manipulative tendencies, is painted in a dark light throughout the movie, but there is a reason behind it. Despite being a resident at the hospital, she tried many times to escape and refuses repeatedly to get help. The movie makes her take responsibility for her actions, which is exactly what would happen in real life, despite Lisa being, deep down, a good person who got lost in her illness.
Susanna, on the other hand, is admitted to the hospital because she attempted to mix pills with alcohol, which almost leads to her death. Susanna is constantly questioning if she does, indeed, suffer from a mental illness or this is just a poor way she chooses to deal with her family issues.
Black Swan (2010)
Natalie Portman does an amazing job portraying Nina Sayers, a professional ballerina who just landed the role of her life. The movie is described as a metaphor for the price that comes with wanting to achieve perfection.
Nina suffers from an eating disorder (probably bulimia nervosa) and chronic hallucinations. While the watcher may question if those hallucinations are real or not, her eating disorder is pretty straight-forwardly portrayed, with Lisa being seen vomiting in the film.
Eating disorders often come from social pressure to look thin and beautiful, especially in the dance world, a fact that is portrayed very accurately in the movie. Anorexia nervosa is, in fact, the deadliest mental illness today.
Fortunately, people now have access to alternative forms of treatment, such as CBD oil, CBD hemp flower, and other derived products, guided meditation, and advanced therapy, which makes it a tiny bit easier to cope with their condition.
The Machinist (2004)
Insomnia is another mental illness that is rarely mentioned in movies. 10% of American adults suffer from chronic insomnia and can relate to Christian Bale’s character, Trevor.
Trevor suffers from a very severe case of insomnia, which ends up plaguing his life. He loses a lot of weight; his mind is unable to function properly and he starts having severe hallucinations. Because of his hallucinations, he is distracted from his job as a machinist, which ends up costing one of his coworkers his arm. This makes Trevor’s other coworkers alienate him and ultimately turns Trevor into a paranoid person. He questions the people he cares about and hallucinates a good part of the movie’s events.
Ultimately, Trevor finds pace once he confronts a guilty act that triggered his insomnia and is finally able to sleep again.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
The fact that it achieved 4 Golden Globe Award nominations, with Jennifer Lawrence winning Best Actress for her portrayal of Tiffany in this movie, may count for something, but these achievements are not what makes this movie so great.
We rarely see a funny, cute, and entertaining film that depicts mental illness, but Silver Linings Playbook manages to do just that. Pat (Bradley Cooper) suffers from bipolar disorder and is forced to move back in with his parents after he is released from a psychiatric hospital where he was admitted for severely beating the man he caught his wife cheating with. He meets Tiffany, who deals with grief after her husband died, and the two form a true connection, despite their troubles.
Fight Club (1999)
While the movie was mostly unsuccessful when it was first released, Fight Club became a cult film in recent years. Edward Norton plays an unnamed character/narrator who meets an interesting character named Tyler on an air flight.
The narrator suffers from dissociative identity disorder, which becomes a major theme in the film. Because he is unhappy with this life and work, he develops a second personality that has every quality the narrator does not. Tyler is masculine, strong, and smart, so basically everything the narrator believes he could never be.
Although this is not the most realistic portrayal of someone suffering from dissociative identity disorder, the movie serves as a good example of how intense and perilous this issue can be.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
The movie serves as a coming-of-age story that focuses on Charlie, played by Logan Lerman, who tries to adjust to school life after being released from a mental health facility. Charlie struggles with depression and the movie wants to show how important it is to have people around you that understand and share your struggles.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower does an amazing job at showing how childhood sexual abuse can affect a person’s life and the mental trauma that comes from it. Even though Charlie finds joy in spending time with his friends, he can’t help but be scared at the thought that they will soon be leaving for college.
The movie shows just how much moral support matters for people suffering from mental illness and how difficult it can be when support seems to disappear.