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Mental Illness in Films

Hi everyone! Smiley Happy 


I wasn't sure whether to post this in everyday life or hanging out so feel free to move it mods.


This is something I have been thinking about for a long time now. I feel like there are some movies - particularly horror - where people suffering from mental illnesses (often schizophrenia and personality disorders) are portrayed as violent, dangerous and scary. Although these movies are clearly meant to be exagerrations I believe these media representations have played a role in shaping the fear, stereotypes and stigma that surround mental illnesses.


On the contrary - film (and art in general) is an excellent outlet where people can share and relate to other people's stories and experiences with mental illness.


Curious to know what everyone thinks about this topic Smiley Happy


Here's an article I found where a psychologist is interviewed on the topic:



Re: Mental illness in horror movies

OMG! I have been thinking about this too! Such a good thread @May_!


I definitely agree that there is a misrepresentation of mental illness in movies and time and time again, I have been reminded how uneducated society is on it! I get almost annoyed when my friends start explaining their interpretations of mental illness and directly reference movies! I think it's sad that these depictions are our stereotypes.


A specific example where there is a huge misconception on it's use and success is ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) that has especially been targeted in horror films and is continually portrayed as inhumane.


Re: Mental illness in horror movies

Thanks @Alison5 Smiley Happy yeah that is a great example - ECT is definitely portrayed as inhumane but as we know it is still used today in some cases where other treatments have not been successful.

Are there any movies that you think portray mental illness accurately?

I think Prozac Nation encapsulated major depression pretty well however I did watch it many many years ago so can't remember it that well.

I've also wondered how people who experience schizophrenia perceive A Beautiful Mind.


Prozac Nation

Re: Mental illness in horror movies

I did read that article you posted above and agree that the recent Silver Linings Playbook is quite an accurate depiction of Bipola (From what I know of it anyway).

Re: Mental Illness in Films

I think it is always important to take any portrayal by hollywood with a grain of salt knowing that a lot of the time it is somewhat over-romanticised.


I actually quite love a lot of the movies and feel as though they drive my passion to learn more about certain disorders. For example the new movie thats coming out called 'split' with James Mcavoy looks extremely fascinating although I think its definitely taking a very horror angle. United States of Tara did dissociative identity disorder fabulously and the book by Brandon Sanderson 'Legion'.


As weird as it sounds these portrayals make me almost want to have them, they are kind of being presented as superpowers, which in itself is probably just as dangerous as having negative stigma against them.


Side Effects is a great movie that examines the exploitation of mental illnesses, still very hollywood but interesting to see that people could actually fake their illnesses for some other untoward purpose.


I actually love this topic haha its made me think of all these great movies

Re: Mental Illness in Films

Thanks for your input @AprilScarlet Smiley Happy

I totally agree with your point about how movies that explore mental illness have driven your interest and desire to learn about them - it is certainly the same for me! And as I said I am by no means saying movies shouldn't explore mental illness.

I think Split looks a little problematic to be honest - dissociative identity disorder or as most people know it as "split personality disorder" is one of the disorders that is often portrayed negatively in horror and is often used to explain why someone is a "psychopathic murderer". I'm certainly not saying people can't make movies about mental illness however I think directors need to be careful with it and ideally consult people with the illness. Imagine watching that movie as someone suffering from the illness...I can't imagine how that would feel Smiley Sad

Yeah there are some really great films that explore mental illness Smiley Happy

Re: Mental Illness in Films

I think that you're more likely to find accurate representations of mental ilnesses in short films on the internet rather than in hollywood films. I know this has been the case for me. I can't think of any off the top of my head, but if I come across one I'll drop a link in this thread. I definitely think the media has a massive effect on what people think, and can alter people's perceptions of what is actually happening, which isn't so cool.

Re: Mental Illness in Films

It's definitely rare to find depictions of mental illness that are not overtly stigmatising, or romanticising... I'm not sure that even many documentaries or even memoirs qualify as being fair depictions, to be honest.


One film that comes to mind as not being particularly offensive is Short Term 12... For those of us with Netflix, it can be found on there. Just be wary of themes of abuse, homelessness, self harm. I really enjoy this film.

Re: Mental Illness in Films

Hi @May_!
Great idea for a thread! 


I completely agree, mental illness is yet to be portrayed 'accurately' by Hollywood! There have been a few movies that have begun to try to change stereotypes but I really feel as though there is still a certain way that mental illness is being portrayed. 


I found a very interesting article on this topic:


Do you guys agree with the movies listed in the article? I think in terms of general well-being and mental health, Inside Out is a great movie to educate and entertain! 




Re: Mental Illness in Films

Nice thread @May_, I think you're absolutely right about the relationship between the media and the way people look at mental illness. On the idea of mental illness making people more likely to be violent and the amount of times it's a part of the villain in a horror film, you can also see this mimicked in real life violence where it's often then explained or blamed on the perpetrator having some sort of mental illness, regardless of whether this is proven to be the case or even relevant to the case. 


I know I've seen a lot of portrayals in film, but now that you mention it it isn't as easy to think of films that feel accurate or fair as portrayals.



The Perks of Being A Wallflower is the first thing that comes to mind for me. It doesn't have as big of a mental health focus as most other films depicting mental illness, but I feel like it captures something well for our generation.


It's been a while since I've watched Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, but I remember being very moved by its portrayal of I think anxiety, trauma/ptsd. Be warned that it is not a light watch though.


Infinetely Polar Bear is a not very well known film that I think did a wonderful job on bipolar disorder. The director/writer based it on her own experiences as a child of a person with the illness. It's also a lovely film.