Mental health is not a new concept for movies and TV shows to tackle. However, not all of them land, with many receiving criticism for insensitivity, not understanding the mental health issue or only talking about it on a surface level.
While shows like “13 Reasons Why” have been intensely panned for not respectively portraying – and at times even glorifying – mental health struggles, there are some works out there that show realistic and sensitive depictions of the issues they discuss.
‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story’
Streaming on: HBO Now
Based on Ned Vizzini’s novel of the same name, “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” is about 16-year-old Craig’s struggle with depression, suicidal thoughts and extreme stress. He checks himself into the psychiatric ward of a hospital, but is put into the adult ward due to renovations on the teenage ward.
The film mixes dark comedy and drama expertly, showing patients struggling with suicidal thoughts, self-harm and meeting the expectations of others, with comedic moments increasing in frequency as the characters’ mental health becomes better.
What makes this film unique is that is was based on Vizzini’s novel, recounting his experiences in a similar situation. The characters also cover a range of ages and backgrounds, giving every viewer someone they can relate to.
Streaming on: Netflix
In a world of cartoon animals and humans living alongside one another, “BoJack Horseman” does not seem like the kind of show that would tackle mental health issues seriously, if at all. Over the course of it’s 5 and a half seasons, the show has gone to great lengths to show how anxiety, depression, substance abuse and PTSD, to name a few, can impact someone in every stage of their life.
The titular character, BoJack Horseman, is the show’s prime example of how a traumatic childhood can lead to many issues later in life and put someone on a dark path they see no escape from. The show does not pull any punches in how it portrays mental health or how its characters make decisions that harm and traumatize others.
The show is also one of the few around today that portrays an asexual character struggling with his identity and sexual orientation.
Streaming on: Disney+, Prime Video
Take the emotional impact of the first five minutes of “Up” and inject that into 94 minutes of a movie that is literally about emotions.
11-year-old Riley deals with moving across the country to San Francisco and fitting in at her new school. This is something that many kids can relate to, and the anxiety that comes with meeting new people and fitting in transcends age.
What makes this movie special is when it goes inside Riley’s mind to the “Headquarters.” Her five emotions, Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust, plus her old imaginary friend, Bing Bong, all have their own individual character arcs, as well as how they assist Riley in dealing with her anxiety and depression.
‘The End of the F***ing World’
Streaming on: Netflix
James believes he is a psychopath, and decides he wants to move on from killing animals to killing a human. Alyssa is a rebellious teenager who wants to escape her troublesome home life. The pair decide to run away together, with James intending to kill her when he gets the chance.
The two experience some harrowing encounters, bringing them closer together and causing the two to question where their decisions are taking them and if the person that they are is the person they want to be.
The show touches on issues of sexual assault, childhood trauma, loss of loved ones, and in the second season, Stockholm syndrome from an unhealthy relationship.
While the blunt and often emotionless dialogue may turn off some viewers, emotional trauma and issues with mental health are hidden beneath the main characters constantly responding to each other with “Wot?” in a British accent.