3 Films that Responsibly Capture Mental Illness

Teenager during a therapySince time immemorial mental illnesses like DBT have been depicted on the silver screen. Sadly, not all of these movies have been able to responsibly or discerningly tackle this, in all respects, challenging subject matter. Think Final Analysis and The Silence of the Lambs which turned mental illness into a springboard for noir and nothing more, aesthetics aside.

But for every misfire, there’s one that works too. Consider these three films:

Girl Interrupted

Based on the bestselling non-fiction book of the same name by author Susanna Kayson, Girl Interrupted was released in 1990 and stars Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie. This movie depicts mental illness in its various iterations. It captures how a one-size-fits-all treatment is never a realistic approach because symptoms differ from one person to another, in the first place. The film also provided valuable insight on how crucial a supportive community is to a person suffering from mental illness.


Released in 2011 by film auteur Lars Von Trier, Melancholia, eerily captures crippling depression like no other. In the movie, Kirsten Dunst plays a bride who quickly transitions from wedding bliss to emotional turmoil. This movie depicts how more than a malady in the mind, depression also turns into physical symptoms such as in the form of unfathomable fatigue.

A Beautiful Mind

Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind is a beautiful film in the way that it captured both genius and mental illness without romanticizing any of the two. This film about Nobel-Prize winning, John Nash, who happens to suffer from schizophrenia, shows how consistent support systems are crucial for individuals with mental illness to thrive in the world of the regularly abled. In the case of John Nash, this support system came in the person of his wife, Esther.

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These films show mental illness in its many shades. If you too feel a certain kinship to any of the afflicted characters in these films, do not hesitate about seeking help. Wherever you are, in Westport or L.A., there are people willing to lend a hand.