It is no hidden fact that television serves as an impactful influence over the audience who consumes it daily. Television is somehow responsible for shaping society towards a better future, and that is why showrunners take up subjects to portray on-screen that is important for people to know and understand, especially in the current scenario.
One such subject is mental health, and the representation or awareness of mental health on-screen is very critical and essential because a lot of people don’t have the exact information about what mental health is. With television series and their favorite celebrities portraying characters with mental illness, it turns out to be more effective than the education given to people via notes or books. Characters on-screen with mental illness have a larger impact on the audience, and the past few years have clearly shown the same.
So, here are seven television shows you can watch to understand the basics of mental health or an individual who deals with mental illness.
1. This Is Us
One of the most loved and admired shows is "This Is Us." It not only captures the bond between the family but also addresses the underlying issues among them. 'Anxiety' is one of the themes that the show has captured, and in one of the scenes shot in season 1, when Randall has a panic attack, the beautifully and strategically thought out scene was applauded by the critics as well as the audience.
Dr. James Murrough said, "This was a pretty accurate portrayal." When you’re experiencing a panic attack, it can feel like you’re dying or losing your mind. The blurring of his vision gave the feeling of detachment or unreality. Depersonalization or feeling disconnected from your body is another common symptom of a panic attack." The show also deals with the mental health struggles of a black man. Another theme includes depression, obesity, PTSD, grief and addiction.
Cast: Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Sterling K. Brown, Chrissy Metz, Justin Hartley, Susan Kelechi Watson, Chris Sullivan, Ron Cephas Jones, Jon Huertas, Caitlin Thompson, Alexandra Breckenridge, Niles Fitch, Logan Shroyer, Hannah Zeile, Mackenzie Hancsicsak, Parker Bates, Lonnie Chavis, Eris Baker, and Faithe Herman.
Where to watch: Hulu
2. Thirteen Reasons Why
'Thirteen Reasons Why' is a Netflix original series based on the book written by author Jay Asher. The story depicts the life of a young man, Clay Jensen, and how he brings justice to his friend Hannah Baker, who dies of suicide and leaves him an audio diary to figure things out. As the story unfolds, the audience gets to see how people deal with depression, anxiety, drug abuse, harassment, bullying, social media threats etc.
The topics that the show covers are sensitive but very essential for the audience to understand that sidelining or ignoring mental health can cause a catastrophe. Suicide, depression, bullying, substance abuse, and sexual assault are some of the themes that are covered in the show throughout its four seasons. With the help of "Thirteen Reasons Why," it’s become a little easier for people, especially young adults, to see and work towards things including depression, anxiety, drug abuse, harassment, etc., in a broader light.
The showrunner said, "The series was born in darkness, and as is often pointed out, it is a dark series, but we have always tried to infuse it with hope and with humor where we can. And we wanted to end on a note of hope that was earned and that was not forced, and also not overly sunny in a way that wouldn't be consistent with what had gone before." The show comes with a warning, and the actors have been considerate towards being extra-sensitive while shooting for the promotions of the show.
Cast: Katherine Langford, Dylan Minnette, Alisha Boe, Brandon Flynn, Ross Butler, Miles Heizer, Christian Navarro, Justin Prentice, Devin Druid, Tommy Dorfman, Timothy Granaderos, Kate Walsh, Derek Luke, Steven Weberm Amy Hargreaves, Grace Saif, Ajiona Alexus, Brandon Larracuente, Steveb Silver, etc.
Where to watch: Netflix:
3. BoJack Horseman
Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s "BoJack Horseman" is an animated series for "Netflix" and the themes that the show covers include depression, addiction, the human condition, sexuality, trauma, and self-destructive behavior. The audience has lauded the show, which has a lot of animal puns and obscure pop-culture references, for its portrayal of mental health and how one deals with it most sensitively and subtly. The show’s star, "BoJack," fails to acknowledge his trauma and causes a lot of damage to the people around him. The fact that all he thought throughout the seasons is about was his legacy and who would be left to remember him, that puts him in a deep state of thought, which leads to his depression and addiction.
BoJack's friend and ghost-writer, Diane becomes the bearer of his toxicity and corrupting nature. Diane's physical appearance reflects her evolution throughout the episodes as after being diagnosed with acute depression, she begins to take anti-depressants which causes her to gain weight. The show's brilliance is that Diane's transformation is never mentioned or highlighted; it epitomizes self-improvement and is left at that. When she takes the medication, she appears to be happier, more confident, and her work improves as does her connection with her boyfriend.
The showrunner once mentioned in an interview with The Huffington Post that they did not intend to make the show about mental health awareness, but they only wanted to capture the essence of the character.
Cast: Will Arnett, Aaron Paul, Alison Brie, Amy Sedaris, Paul F. Tompkins, Raphael Bob-Waksberg, Lisa Kudrow, Maria Bamford, Kristen Schaal, Sharon Horgan, Craig Kilborn, Dedrich Bader, and Luca Biagini.
Where to watch: Netflix
HBO’s "Euphoria" is by far one of the best shows on the internet that has tried from its very first episode to set the ground that it has been made to educate people about mental health struggles along with telling them how to deal with someone who is struggling. In its first season, the show managed to spark conversations among peers about mental health, trauma, and substance abuse.
In the initial episodes, the audience sees Rue played by Zendaya, diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention deficit disorder (ADD), general anxiety disorder, and possibly bipolar disorder, and in the same episode, audience can see her narrate her life story from mental health struggle to substance abuse along with her relationship with her family. The audience also gets to see Jules’ depression, along with Kat, Maddy, and Cassie dealing with their internal repressed issues as the show proceeds. The show has sparked important conversations between teenagers and adults alike about issues of mental health and substance abuse by displaying raw, graphic, and unfiltered scenes.
Where to Watch: HBO
5. Grey's Anatomy
ABC’s "Grey’s Anatomy" is one of the longest-running shows and has managed to not only hold people’s attention for the last 18 seasons but also showcased the things that needed to be talked about, including the recent COVID-19 Pandemic situation.
The show, however, revolves around Meredith Grey from being Dr. Ellis Grey's daughter to being one of the best surgeons in Seattle. Throughout her journey, she faces a lot of things including, heartbreaks, shooting in the hospital, place crash, the grief of her mother dying, suicidal thoughts, and grief of Derek's death.
The show not only focuses on Meredith but her peers as well, and the audience gets to see how every character who has been a part of the show deals with their demons, and the scenes of them addressing their demons are beautifully written. PTSD, anxiety, depression, trauma, stress, OCD, bipolar disorder, sexual assault, etc., are a few themes that have been covered over the eighteen seasons of the show, and the audience has applauded every bit of it.
Cast: Ellen Pompeo, Chandra Wilson, Camilla Luddington, Caterina Scorsone, Kevin McKidd, Kelly McCreary, James Pickens Jr., Abigail Spencer, Kim Raver, Jake Borelli, Alex Landi, Chris Carmack, Debbie Allen, Greg Hermann, Richard Flood, Anthony Hill, and Scott Speedman.
Where to watch: Hulu
The above-mentioned shows are just the tip of the list of series or shows that are now introducing the themes related to mental health in order to make the audience aware of the ongoing situations. It is one of the essential things needed right now.