Ascension Behavioral Health

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Fast Five - Movies About Mental Illness

Nowadays, it seems that conversation about mental health/mental illness is everywhere. Historically, there are pretty poor depictions of various mental health features in print, television and movies. But every now & then (and recently, more frequently) there are some gems that depict aspects of what it can be like to live with or near mental illness realistically AND compassionately. Here's a quick list of a few that I've seen, though there are many more, and many more that I have yet to watch. 

1. Still Alice. A deeply moving film that I saw on a long plane ride (I was relieved that I could quietly cry myself to sleep), it focuses on a linguistic professor's diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer's Disease and how this shook the foundation of her life and the lives of her family members. Intelligence, identity, language, loss; all are addressed with powerful acting & touching scenes. 

2. What About Bob? This is an early 90's comedy that looks at severe Anxiety and Dependent Personality Disorder (as well as other mental health issues) and how this plays out between a client and his psychiatrist. Though the treatment methods are questionable and the overall storyline isn't that realistic/common, Bob meets all of the criteria for several DSM-V diagnoses, and Dr. Marvin does at least attempt some modes of treatment that research has shown to be effective for anxiety i.e. cognitive-behavioral therapy. 

3. Rain Man. A delicate look at a rare end of the Autism Spectrum, Raymond would be considered high-functioning, given his ability to care for himself & communicate with others, and a savant, given his math skills and keen memory. Autism is much more broad that what was portrayed in the film (as any mental health diagnosis is), and this was one of the first depictions of autism on Hollywood, and for which Dustin Hoffman received rave reviews. 

4. We Need to Talk About Kevin. I actually only just watched this last week though it's been on my "to watch" list for years (6 years!). This film looks at Antisocial Personality Disorder through the eyes of a parent, a community and the legal system.

5. Reign Over Me. I bought this movie very shortly after the first time I saw it in theaters. One, because I love both Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle, and two, because I found it to be a sensitive look at depression, grief & friendship. Charlie's whole life is changed after experiencing devastating loss, and reconnecting with an old friend who knew him before tragedy struck likely saves his life. 

Since I kinda liked writing this post, I'll continue to blog some more about other films/shows and how they tackle mental health/mental illness. Til then! - Dr A