Mental Health in the Movies

Mental Health in the Movies

October is Mental Health Awareness Month in Namibia. (The US celebrates this awareness month in May.) The cinema and movies are not always the best places to learn important lessons about life. However, some mental health issues are shrouded in secrecy and stigma. As many of the more serious issues that can be classified as mental health issues are fairly uncommon, it is difficult to identify these issues.

So where can we turn to, to see a picture of mental health disorders. There is no place like Hollywood.

The following list of movies help us to identify and de-stigmatize some mental health disorders, but be warned that the real picture of someone living with these issues are not romantic and in most cases (unlike the movies) there are no happy endings. With this warning in place here is the list of movies that raises awareness on mental health issues:

1.) Rain Man (1998) – Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise

Starting with one of the best. Rain Man is about Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) who has autism. The movie won 4 Oscars.

2.) As Good as It Gets (1997) – Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt

A personal favourite. In this move Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson) has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). The best scene of the movie asks a chilling retorical question as Melvin bursts into the waiting room of his psychologist/psychiatrist and asks the people in the waiting room: “What if? This is as good as it gets?” The movie won two Oscars and were nominated for seven in total.

3.) A Beautiful Mind (2001) – Russel Crowe

This is one of those movies where the disorder at hand is glamorized. John Nash (Russel Crowe) is a brilliant mathematician and theorist, but he suffers from schizophrenia. In the movie he becomes convinced he is being chased by Soviet agents and is institutionalised. One of the negative impacts of this movie is that it may be seen as promoting the idea to people who suffer from this disorder, that they can stop taking their medication and cope. However some sources state that John never made any significant contributions to science after his schizophrenic break.

4.) Girl, interrupted (1999) – Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie

This movie is about a girl’s stay in a mental hospital. While the main character (Winona Ryder) is diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder there are a whole host of other actors with disorders. The most memorable of the supporting cast is Angelina Jolie who is diagnosed as a sociapath and Brittany Murphy (8 Mile) who has is diagnosed with a host of comorbid illnesses such as OCD and bulemia.

5.) The Vow (2012) – Rachel McAdams, Channing Tatum

A more recent movie, The Vow is about, Paige Collins (Rachel McAdams) and her husband Leo (Channing Tatum) who come out of a movie theater and has a car accident. Afterwards she cannot remember their history. In the movies this disorder is used very often (think 50 First Dates, The Bourne Identity, RoboCop, and The English Patient) Retrograde amnesia occurs when a person forgets part or all of his or her past.

6.) American Sniper (2014) – Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller

Another Oscar winner the movie was nominated for six Oscars and eventually won one. The movie shows scenes and deals with a fairly well known mental illness, namely Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) The plot summary from the IMDB – Navy S.E.A.L. sniper Chris Kyle’s pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield and turns him into a legend. Back home to his wife and kids after four tours of duty, however, Chris finds that it is the war he can’t leave behind.

7.) The King’s Speach (2010) – Colin Firth

Another personal favourite, another Oscar winner, The King’s Speach tells the story of the man who became King George VI, the father of Queen Elizabeth II. After his brother abdicates, George (‘Bertie’) reluctantly assumes the throne. Plagued by a dreaded stammer and considered unfit to be king, Bertie engages the help of an unorthodox speech therapist named Lionel Logue. Through a set of unexpected techniques, and as a result of an unlikely friendship, Bertie is able to find his voice and boldly lead the country through war. Among other things Bertie suffers from Social Anxiety Disorder. Social anxiety disorder (SAD), also known as social phobia, is an anxiety disorder characterised by an intense fear in one or more social situations causing considerable distress and impaired ability to function in at least some parts of daily life.

8.) Homeland (2012 – date, TV Series) – Clare Danes

Now entering it’s third season the Homeland series stars Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison, a Central Intelligence Agency officer with bipolar disorder, and Damian Lewis as Nicholas Brody, a United States Marine Corps Scout Sniper. Mathison had come to believe that Brody, who was held captive by al-Qaeda as a prisoner of war, was “turned” by the enemy and poses a threat to the United States.

9.) Little Miss Sunshine – (2006) – Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear

Probably the mental health disorder that is the most common of all mental health issues. The movie Little Miss Sunshine is probably more art-movie than mainstream. Produced on a budget of US$8 million it made US$ 100 million. The movie was nominated for four Oscars and won two. It tracks the cross country trip of a dysfunctional family to participate in a beauty pageant. One of the characters has recently attempted suicide and suffers from Major Depressive Disorder. Major depressive disorder (MDD) (also known as clinical depression, major depression, unipolar depression, or unipolar disorder; or as recurrent depression in the case of repeated episodes) is a mental disorder characterized by a pervasive and persistent low mood that is accompanied by low self-esteem and by a loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities.

10.) About a Boy – (2002) – Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult

Twelve year old Marcus Brewer (Nicholas Hoult) lives with his chronically depressed (MDD) single mother, Fiona Brewer. Both Fiona and Marcus beat to their own respective drummers. Marcus will do whatever he can to make his depressed mother happy, even if it causes himself grief. As such, he realizes that he is perceived as different than most kids, as even the self-professed weird kids don’t want to hang out with him as he is the target of bullying. This changes when he meets Hugh Grant.

Contact us for Emotional Intelligence for your company or team.

Why EQ Training?

A comprehensive meta-analysis of the relationship between Emotional Intelligence and health was conducted by Martins, Ramalho & Morin in 2010 where they showed that emotional intelligence is a plausible predictor of health. Ciarrochi, Deane & Anderson (2002) proved emotional intelligence as a distinct construct that is important in understanding the link between stress and mental health.

Contact Capacity Trust for Emotional Intelligence training.

Find out more about our EQ training