The portrayal of those with mental illness has certainly changed.
But how far have we progressed in our understanding of those suffering from mental illness?
As part of World Mental Health Day, and in an attempt to further lift the stigma around those living with a mental health issue, we have curated a list of some of the most accurate and moving movies featuring a character with mental illness.
Though we have come far, there’s still far to go.
It is notoriously hard to make a film about eating disorders without it turning into a how-to guide, and the balance in creating a character who suffers from an eating disorder is a hard one to strike.
In Black Swan, Natalie Portman’s Nina Sayers deals with not only an eating disorder but also hallucinations as she strives for perfection as a ballerina.
By allowing Sayers’ experiences to move throughout the movie without comment or judgement, the audience feels the weight of the ever-present haunting living with an eating disorder can feel like.
Black Swan is just as much about mental illness in the grand scheme of things (particularly in the world of professional dance) as it is about the very real impacts for the one person, in particular, dealing with it.
Bessie: Queen Latifah stars as Bessie Smith in her biopic (Image: HBO)
Queen Latifah gave the role of Blues singer Bessie Smith her all – including glimpses into Bessie’s struggle with alcoholism and depression.
Bessie also deals with issues of racism and the toll it takes on the mental and physical health of the African American community.
Bessie won seven awards but as a HBO movie, the film did not have a theatrical release.
The bio-pic is only one of a few movies to put the lives of women of colour at its forefront, including their mental health.
Jacob’s Ladder: The movie shows the realities of living with PTSD (Image: Carolco Pictures)
The double-edged sword of sexism is deeply cutting for men, too, who are expected to keep their feelings bottled up – especially when it comes to PTSD.Jacob’s Ladder gives a very accurate portrayal of a Vietnam War veteran Jacob, who suffers from flashbacks and hallucinations due to his experience as a soldier.
As a psychological horror film, Jacob’s Ladder is one of the most haunting movies to date, perhaps even more so due to its accuracy.
It gives a glimpse into the isolation, fear, and debilitation PTSD can create.
Frozen: Elsa’s isolation is said to be a metaphor for living with depression (Image: Disney)
Though definitely a feel-good movie, Frozen did an admirable job at showing how isolating mental illness can be.
Many adults who watched Frozen commented how Elsa, who is never labelled with mental illness, represents the loneliness that can come with any number of mental illnesses.
The fear of repeating past mistakes leads Elsa to lock herself away, a symptom many living with depression can relate to.
Of course, Frozen offers a patented Disney happy ending – reality is far from simple, but support and understanding from friends and family does go a long way as the cartoon flick tries to demonstrate.
Inside Out: Disney puts teen emotions at the forefront of Inside Out (Image: Disney)
Another star for Disney, whose Pixar movie Inside Out brought teenage emotions to the forefront.
Inside Out reinforces the theme that understanding, accepting, and expressing your feelings is healthy.
For any young person dealing with feelings of sadness, anxiety, and fear, Inside Out was likely an exciting movie to see.
Representation is important especially when mental health issues are so often deemed taboo or not taken seriously and Inside Out gives kids the chance to feel their feelings wholly.
Lars and the Real Girl
Not all movies about mental health issues are dramas, and Lars and the Real Girl is an off-beat comedy which shows the progress one can make with the right support.