On Mental Health In Films

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Adam discusses films with positive representations of mental health.

I feel that some films and TV shows out there do not do mental health any justice.

I feel that some films and TV shows out there do not do mental health any justice. Take the example of ‘Me, Myself and Irene’, which makes a joke out of schizophrenia and ‘Rain Man’, which has made people stereotype autism, thinking those with the disability are like Dustin Hoffman from the movie. Because one in four people in the UK suffer from mental health issues, we need to have better and more realistic representations on radio, film and TV and the media in general.

‘Me, Myself and Irene’ was a hilarious comedy movie starring Jim Carrey as a cop suffering from schizophrenia. This is a good example of bad coverage because even though it was hilarious, mental health usually isn’t like this and those living with schizophrenia aren’t usually completely opposite with their personalities, like how it is portrayed in the movie.

I want to send the message across that it is okay to have a relatives with a mental illness…

There have been many bad portrayals of mental health in films, but I’d rather not linger on the bad examples. Instead, I want to talk about a couple films where it was perfectly portrayed. I want to send the message across that it is okay to have a relatives with a mental illness, it is okay to have a mental illness. I want to put across that we should celebrate it and even support those who need it. Even if someone with mental health says they don’t need help, likely chance is they do. I have lived with autism for all my life and for the past five years I have dealt with anxiety and depression which at a few times had gotten so bad, it was debilitating.

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[Warning: spoilers ahead]

‘The Perks Of Being A Wallflower’

The movie follows a socially awkward teenager called Charlie. He is always watching life from the side-lines. That is until he meets two charismatic students, Sam and Patrick. They help him discover the joys of friendship, music, love and so much more. As his friends prepare to leave for college, Charlie’s sadness threatens to shatter his confidence.

Charlie blames himself for the death of his mother. When Charlie was a child, his mother was secretly going out to buy him a birthday present and was involved in a car accident.

Charlie lets his guard down more when he goes to a house party with Sam and Patrick. Talking to Charlie, Sam realises that not only does Charlie have no friends, but he lost his best and only friend the previous year to suicide. Sam tells Patrick of Charlie’s ordeal, Patrick proceeds to gather the members of the party and proposes a toast to Charlie.

Charlie is absolutely shocked because he didn’t think anyone would have noticed him. He is like a wallflower, watching life go by and not doing anything about it.

Near the end of the movie when his newfound friends are planning to leave for college, the flashbacks return. Over and over again they playback in his mind. When you are having an anxiety attack, you are filled with negativity and a constant voice of self-blame you cannot shift so easily. When someone is in that state of mind, logical thinking goes out the door.

Charlie is able to get through his problems and it helps his recovery knowing that his friends are there to support him through this ordeal. Keeping such a horrible and negative feeling bottled up inside is toxic and can not only rot you from the inside but drive you over the edge.

‘Inside Out’

The story follows Riley, a happy and cheerful 11-year-old girl who loves hockey. Her world is flipped upside down when her parents move to San Francisco. With the stress of moving, Sadness is brought to the forefront. When Joy and Sadness are inadvertently swept into the far reaches of Riley’s mind, the only emotions left running Headquarters are Anger, Fear and Disgust.

I enjoyed the idea of showing Riley’s life growing up and the introductions to all those different feelings she deals with on a daily basis. We all have our core values and in the film they were represented as five islands. In every single one of us, there will always be an element of sadness. It’s how we deal with it which makes us who we are today. When we suffer from such an event, logic always goes out the door. I did say this about the last film, but ‘Inside Out’ better represents what happens within a person’s mind with a hint of comedy.

In Riley’s mind, the logical thinker is Joy. Without Koy, the logical thinking part of Riley, everything begins to collapse. Without logic, everything we do has no real purpose, almost like we are on autopilot.

She misses her old school and friends, the stress of moving brings Sadness to the forefront and her logic is being by Sadness. A good example is when she talks about her experience of moving to a new town and school, she breaks down in the middle of the class. In the beginning of the scene, Fear had a huge pile of paper with lists of what could go wrong. Fear is the sole cause of anxiety and when fear is in control of you, then everything seems to go wrong in your eyes and completely fall apart.

We act upon fight or flight and in those moments we tend to make the worst of decisions and are not ourselves. Without logic, the balance and presence of both joy and sadness, we do not think straight and we also lose our core values, what makes us who we are.

The problem is solved when not only logic came back into the big picture, but when one admits that they have a problem and need help.

Mental illness has always carried around a bad stigma thanks to the media and what people are subjected to. Mental health isn’t a problem someone can see like cancer, but if left untreated can be far more fatal.

These films both show in completely different ways: the core fundamental values of friendship, why you shouldn’t be afraid to be yourself and if you need help. No one will scrutinise you if you just ask for it and admit you have a problem.

So let’s talk about mental health. Chat with us over at @rifemag

If you’ve got any more questions about mental health, you can find out more from Off The Record on the Rife Guide.

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