Main image courtesy of Mental Floss.
Sometimes it can be difficult to start the conversation surrounding a mental health topic, which is why it is so refreshing when a movie made for adults and children can help facilitate that. Although these movies are suitable for all ages, adults should not be so quick to dismiss the lessons that they seek to teach us. Having open and honest discussions surrounding these mental illness topics is good for anyone, but it’s always a little easier to get started when some fun, and well written movie characters are involved. Here are our five favorite movies that anyone-- at any age-- can learn a little something about mental health from.
Opens the conversation about: Depression
Widely regarded as one of the best movies that deal with real emotions and relatable situations surrounding a mental health issue is Inside Out. By showing the personifications of our emotions-- Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger-- we can start to understand how these important aspects of ourselves interact. The movie delicately weaves the tale that follows scientific research-- that the way to deal with depression is not just through more joy, but by accepting every kind of emotion. All of the emotions and feelings we have as individuals are valid, and it's how we choose to make use of them that counts.
Opens the conversation about: Grief and loss
The first Frozen taught the world that you are fine, exactly the way that you are. The second Frozen ups the ante and shows how people can still follow their own path, while being loyal and loving to friends and family. Another stand out theme from the movie is how it puts the characters in a situation where they are dealing with grief and loss, and that it is okay to not necessarily know what to do next. A lot of people may be anxious or scared when they think about the loss of a loved one, but it’s comforting to know that even if you don’t have all the answers, you can still move forward, each day at a time.
Opens the conversation about: Anger and grieving
Many people choose not to think about death, let alone discuss it, because it can bring up intense feelings of anxiety and sadness. The character Carl in the movie Up is dealing with the loss of a loved one in his own way. Not everyone grieves in the same manner, and this is important for people to know. Sometimes there are overwhelming feelings of pain, loss, and regret, but for other people, they might be angry or annoyed that there was so much left unfinished. It’s important to recognize these emotions in our friends and family, and to understand that grieving is a process, and discussions about how to move forward are essential to learning to deal with loss.
Opens the conversation about: Trauma and fear
Past trauma can have a dramatic impact on our levels of anxiety and can contribute to the fears we deal with each day. The character Marlin in Finding Nemo was exposed to trauma and it has left him anxious and over-protective. When his son is kidnapped, Marlin must face his biggest fear-- the ocean-- in order to rescue his son. This movie takes a thoughtful look at how sometimes things happen beyond our control and can leave us with a great deal of pain. Marlin shows the audience that by conquering that pain and fear, he was able to save his son and do something he never thought he could do.
Opens the conversation about: Dementia and loss
As our population ages, more people will see their older loved ones lose some or all of their cognitive abilities. It can be difficult for family members to learn how to care for their relations with dementia, as the loss of abilities and memories can cause personality changes. There are ways to still reach your loved one though-- the movie Coco showed that with a little extra effort, you can still engage and enjoy the company of relations dealing with dementia. It can be difficult for the family to realize that their loved one is different now, but it can be comforting to know that there are still ways to take advantage of the time they still have left.
Movies about mental health are an important way to take away much of the stigma that still surrounds it. They can give us ideas and teach us new ways to look at some difficult subjects, and hopefully engage more willingly in discussions about it.