This week, we continue our mental health resources series by curating 8 inspiring and engaging films about mental health topics - from PTSD to depression to bipolar disease and more. We think these films are sensitive and worthy portrayals that explore the nature of mental illness - and ultimately help us get the word out - and more exposure equals greater understanding.
Most of these films can be found on the major streaming networks. Share the list with friends and family, or if you are a clinician, with patients who may also benefit. Then grab the popcorn (and possibly a box of tissues) and start watching.
Silver Linings Playbook - This popular, Oscar-winning 2012 romantic comedy is based on Matthew Quick's novel of the same name, and follows two main characters dealing with mental illness. Bradley Cooper plays Pat who is diagnosed with bipolar disease, and Jennifer Lawrence plays a widow dealing with her own mental illness in the aftermath of her husband's death.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower - 2012 was a good year for quality films addressing mental health issues and this one continues the trend: it explores the social-psychological effects PTSD has on young adults and how love can help heal the wounds. Based on a novel of the same name.
Girl Interrupted - This best-selling memoir turned movie is a firsthand account of a young woman's experience inside an American psychiatric hospital in the 1960s. Care wasn’t as good as it is now - which is hard to watch in the film - and although we still have a long way to go, it's good to see how much treatment for mental illness has improved.
Good Will Hunting - The main character (Will - played by Matt Damon, who also wrote the screenplay with friend Ben Affleck) was abandoned as a young boy and suffers from attachment disorder because of it. The film details how his mental health has an impact on the choices he makes - he’s clearly a genius who belongs inside the classrooms that he cleans for a living at MIT. The success of his work with a local therapist ultimately gives viewers hope for the future.
A Beautiful Mind - Tells the true-life story of brilliant mathematician John Nash (Russell Crowe), a Nobel Laureate in Economics and Abel Prize winner, who develops paranoid schizophrenia and endures delusional episodes while watching the burden his condition brings on his family and friends.
The Soloist - A Los Angeles Times columnist (Steve Lopez) finds and writes about a homeless street musician (Nathanial Ayers) who possesses extraordinary talent. In his attempt to help Ayers, Lopez has to also deal with the mental illness that landed Ayers on the street in the first place, as well as the stigma against those with mental health issues.
When Love Is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story - Deals sensitively with addiction. Winona Ryder plays the wife of the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson, who made it big on Wall Street before the Crash of 1929 - which wreaked havoc on his sense of worth - and founded Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935 after getting sober himself. Lois Wilson later founded Al-Anon to help the loved ones of those struggling with addiction.
Cyberbully - Takes a realistic and thoughtful approach to the issue of online bullying as seen through the eyes of a teen victim who attempts suicide. Ultimately has positive messages about tolerance, resilience, getting help and support, and standing up to peer pressure. This would be a good film to start a discussion with any teens in your life.
Are there any films that you would add to the list? Let us know in the comments.
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