Mental Health has been a central focal point in medicine but has also seen a recent surge in its prevalence in mainstream media. While many movies stigmatize mental illness with dramatized and inaccurate depictions, many directors are changing the narrative with respect and introspection.
As stigmas dissipate, more people may come forward to learn more about mental illness but may not know where to start. Fortunately, there are several resources available to learn about mental illness. Mind Diagnostics provides self-assessments to determine whether symptoms could be signs of mental illness. If you’re experiencing mental health issues and want to learn more, visit Mind Diagnostics today.
Media can be a powerful tool to spread messages and ideas, and directors take their roles as artists seriously to create honest, respectful representations of an issue that affects more than 10% of the global population. This article lists 5 of the most respectful and accurate movies where the director and cast portrayed mental illness in a way to encourage dialogue and
Take Shelter – Schizophrenia
Take Shelter follows Michael Shannon as he plays Curtis LaForche, a midwestern family man who begins to hallucinate foreboding patterns in the sky, prompting him to build a tornado shelter. With every passing day, his symptoms worsen, and he begins to alienate himself from his loved ones. He develops psychosomatic pain from imagined attacks and continues to financially burden his family with the construction of the tornado shelter.
Take Shelter tackles schizophrenia and depicts its effects on the individual and their family and community. The protagonist experiences dread when he can’t differentiate what’s real or imagined and pushes his family away, even without any physical proof of a threat. Family history is also accurately factored into Curtis’ experience as 20% of cases of schizophrenia are inherited from affected parents.
The director Jeff Nichols created a movie that shows the inaccessibility of mental health services for small towns and depicts how uncomfortable and ill-equipped everyday people are at confronting mental illness.
Dear Zindagi – Depression
Dear Zindagi is a Bollywood movie about Kahlia, a young actress bored with her life. Her mental health is not taken seriously in her desi household, and her family accurately represents the taboo of mental illness and propensity to tradition in Indian culture. Kahlia’s parents, coming from a more reserved upbringing, see their daughter’s depression as something to ‘snap out of’ and don’t treat it with the respect it deserves.
Her depression pushes her to overwork and distracts herself from her true feelings, a common theme for people with depression. However, it isn’t until Kahlia meets Dr. Jahangir Khan, played by Mr. Baadshah of Bollywood SRK himself, that she begins to express her inner feelings and get to the heart of her depression.
Dear Zindagi shows viewers some of the ways depression can manifest into our lives. The movie’s most significant takeaway is that we should express ourselves instead of holding our frustrations inside.
My Name is Khan – Autism
My Name is Khan revolves around a man and his struggle to live in a post 9/11 America. Unfortunately, his Muslim name makes him a target for ignorant citizens who can’t differentiate between Middle-Eastern, Indian, or Asian people and ultimately sullies his American dream.
Shah Rukh Khan, playing the role of Rizvan Khan, explores a man with Asperger’s syndrome and gives an honest, respectful performance. People with Asperger’s syndrome develop repetitive behaviors and a sensitivity to certain stimuli, and his portrayal highlights these symptoms, albeit a bit exaggerated.
Autism is a mental disorder that has the benefit of decades of research, much of which is available for others to study and understand. My Name is Khan shows us a man living with autism and prejudices against his religion and culture.
Taare Zameen Par – Dyslexia
Taare Zameen Par centers around a child living with dyslexia, a type of mental disorder that hinders learning by making it hard to read certain letters or symbols. Darsheel Safary plays Ishaan, an 8-year old boy who faces sneers and teasing from his classmates and eventually finds a mentor in Ram Shankar Nikumbh, an unorthodox art teacher.
This movie was the first Bollywood movie that attempted to cover how dyslexia affects people and their families. Taare Zameen Par went beyond basic understandings of dyslexia and portrayed the struggles of a child trying to make sense of the world with a brain wired differently.
While some films continue to perpetuate harmful stereotypes, more and more movies are giving mental health the importance it truly deserves. As mental illness becomes more acceptable in the cultural zeitgeist, many directors are capitalizing on this shift to create movies about mental illness in a more hopeful light.