Since 1949, May has become synonymous with Mental Health Awareness Month. This topic is very dear to me as several friends, family members, and exes have struggled with mental health. And yes, at certain times in my life, even I have struggled with it to some extent. For many years there’s been so much stigma attributed to mental health and has led to many people who have struggled with it to not speak up, making them feel alone.
Throughout the years it has become much more common for movies to highlight mental health conditions. Since mental illness affects millions of Americans, it’s a very timely and relatable topic. Often though, these movies depict mental illness in a way that’s inaccurate or further propels the stigmatization of this condition.
But sometimes some movies get it right and are able to realistically depict mental illness in all its different forms. These 5 movies are my top picks for how accurate the characteristics of the mental illness depicted was as well as not creating stigma towards the condition.
Welcome To Me (2015)
A mentally unbalanced lottery winner, Alice (Kristen Wiig) goes off her medication for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), buys a talk show and uses it as a platform to broadcast her bizarre opinions on a wide variety of topics. Despite this film being a dramatic comedy, Alice shows a plethora of BPD traits, which include mood swings and unstable relationships. As her behavior slowly pushes away the people closest to her, Alice begins to take her condition far more seriously and struggled to keep her loved ones in her life. This movie brilliantly falsifies the myth that a person with BPD is selfish.
The Skeleton Twins (2014)
Following the many years of estrangement, twins Milo (Bill Hader) and Maggie (Kristen Wiig) have an unexpected reunion after both have attempted suicide. The situation forces them to confront how their lives became so broken. For Maggie, it means examining why she’s so unhappy in a marriage to a loving husband. For Milo, it means meeting with his first love to see if their romance can reignite. Eventually, they learn that living truthfully and accepting each other is the only way to move forward. This film accurately expresses what it’s like to go through a depression.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
After losing his job and wife, and spending time in a mental institution, Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper) winds up living with his parents (Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver). He wants to rebuild his life and reunite with his wife, but his parents would be happy if he just shared their obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles. Things get complicated when Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who offers to help him reconnect with his wife, if he will do something very important for her in exchange. This film expertly represents the various ranges of emotion that often occur when living with bipolar disorder.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
Socially awkward teen Charlie (Logan Lerman) is a wallflower, always watching life from the sidelines until two charismatic students become his mentors. Free-spirited Sam (Emma Watson) and her stepbrother Patrick (Ezra Miller) help Charlie discover the joys of friendship, first love, music, and more, while a teacher sparks Charlie’s dreams of becoming a writer. However, as his new friends prepare to leave for college, Charlie’s inner sadness threatens to shatter his newfound confidence. This movie genuinely depicts all the highs and lows of living with a mental illness.
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
A human drama inspired by events in the life of John Forbes Nash Jr., and in part based on the biography “A Beautiful Mind,” by Sylvia Nasar. From the heights of notoriety to the depths of depravity, John Forbes Nash Jr. experienced it all. A mathematical genius, he made an astonishing discovery early in his career and stood on the brink of international acclaim. But the handsome and arrogant Nash soon found himself on a painful and harrowing journey of self-discovery.
I truly hope that Hollywood continues to make movies about mental illness, especially when the condition is depicted in a realistic and empathetic way. Which movies would you add to the list?