Mental Health Depictions in TV Shows
Mental health can be a complex subject to come to grips with, seeing as how complicated emotions, thoughts, and feelings can be. Some of us can learn tons from reading articles and books online. However, many of us may find a more profound understanding from seeing actual depictions of mental illness and other mental health topics.
While the topic of mental health used to be taboo, we have come to realize that representation can mean the world. Because of this, more and more shows have begun to discuss and represent mental illness. A few of these shows depict mental illness incredibly well, including:
5. Degrassi, Degrassi: The Next Generation, & Degrassi: The Next Class
This is Us
Randall Pearson's storyline in This is Us is a piece of the show that does a fantastic job discussing mental health matters. Randall was the responsible and mature sibling of his family, meaning he carried significant weight in helping his siblings move forward through difficult times. To add to his mental health struggles growing up, Randall knew nothing of his birth parents for the majority of his life and grew up surrounded by white family members.
In the show, Randall faces a break-in, family issues, life-changing life events, significant career moves, and stress from worldwide topics like the Black Lives Matter movement and COVID-19. Randall finds his mental health struggling as the pressure continues to pile on. Though Randall struggles to face his own issues, as he believes he must always be the strong one, his wife convinces him to speak with a therapist.
The show does a fantastic job of depicting Randall's anxiety and other mental health struggles. It also emphasizes the value therapy can bring when you find a therapist who fits your individual needs, as Randall did in finding a black therapist who could better understand his life experiences.
Steven Universe Future
The predecessor to this show, Steven Universe, certainly does not shy away from mental health topics. However, the sequel series, Steven Universe Future, does an excellent job at taking a deep dive into discussing Steven's mental health struggles as he navigates adulthood, trauma, grief, and trying to find his place in the universe.
In the series, Steven experiences symptoms that cause him to feel as though he is constantly in danger, even when he is not. Regardless, Steven still struggles to take the time to care for himself and the symptoms he is dealing with, choosing instead to continue playing hero to everyone else. As Steven deals with his symptoms longer and longer, he is eventually diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental health disorder that occurs in response to trauma. This series is a great thought-provoker that gives one a better look at how trauma can impact a person.
The series, BoJack Horseman, does a pretty good job of depicting how mental health struggles can impact our entire life- including our relationships, career, health, and overall satisfaction with life. The show star, BoJack Horseman, is an anthropomorphic horse struggling with addiction, depression, relationship issues, and a dwindling TV career.
Throughout the series, viewers get a mostly accurate depiction of the ways untreated mental health struggles can cause turmoil in one's relationship. It also does an excellent job of covering the ways one's childhood events can impact their behaviors and thoughts well into adulthood.
For those with questions regarding LGBTQ+ mental health topics, Love, Vicor is an excellent series. Love, Victor is the sequel series following the popular film Love, Simon. Both Love, Simon and Love, Victor discuss the stress and anxiety one may experience over their sexual orientation and the mental health implications of coming out.
The show and movie both do an excellent job of educating viewers about the struggles and obstacles those in the LGBTQ+ community face and overcome every day.
Degrassi, Degrassi: The Next Generation, & Degrassi: The Next Class
Degrassi and all of its predecessors is another fantastic series that covers mental health topics. The series covers many mental health issues that youth may face, like eating disorders, anxiety, depression, suicide and self-harm, bipolar disorder, struggles with identity, peer pressure, trauma, substance abuse, and more.
This series does not shy away from difficult mental health topics and produces thought-provoking episodes that get the ball rolling on meaningful mental health conversations.
We all like to take some time to watch TV from time to time. These series do an excellent job of entertaining while spreading awareness around an incredibly important topic- mental health. If you want to begin learning more about what mental illness can look like, having a series to turn to that discusses these topics can be a great start!