13 Documentaries On Mental Health That You Can Stream Right Now


For some people, the holiday season can be difficult. The end of the year can exacerbate certain life stressors and uncover emotions we haven't let ourselves fully experience throughout the year. According to a 2006 survey by the American Psychological Association, 44 percent of women and 31 percent of men reported an increase in stress around the holidays. So it's important to have conversations surrounding mental health consistently during the holidays, and all year round. Staying abreast on stigmas, regulations, treatments, and other issues concerning mental health is essential. That's why these 13 documentaries about mental health are required viewing.

Warning: This article contains information about mental illness, addiction, and suicide, which some may find triggering.

There is still a stigma when it comes to talking about mental health issues, mainly because many people are misinformed, confused, or too embarrassed to talk about their struggles. And while there are still many hurdles to proper discussions, there are plenty of documentaries available that shine light on various mental health concerns in an array of communities. Covering fields including bipolar disorder, anorexia, and depression, these documentaries are a great way to open up dialogue with your friends and family members. Just be aware of your triggers, and take care not to expose yourself to any movie that will do more harm than good.

1. WTF Is Mental Health?

Kofi Siriboe's short documentary, WTF Is Mental Health?, explores the preconceived notions of mental health in the Black community.

2. Alien Boy: The Life & Death Of James Chasse

Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse, is about a man named who had schizophrenia and was allegedly attacked by three Portland police officers. The attack resulted in the death of Chasse and led to the family suing the city of Portland. The documentary sheds light on how people with mental health disorders can be treated by law enforcement officers who aren't properly trained.

Stream it on Amazon.

3. Simply Complicated

Demi Lovato opens up about her struggles with mental health, substance abuse, self-esteem, and stardom. She may be a celebrity, but many of the pressures she describes experiencing are relatable.

Stream it on YouTube.

4. Thin

This HBO documentary follows four women and their struggle with eating disorders. The rawly honest film sheds a light on what self-acceptance looks like and how mental illnesses, such as bulimia and anorexia, affect the daily lives of women in particular.

Stream it on Amazon.

5. Running From Crazy

Running From Crazy centers on three granddaughters of Ernest Hemingway, endeavoring to understand how mental illness affects their family and each of them individually.

Stream it on Amazon.

6. Don’t Call Me Crazy

A three-part documentary series, Don't Call Me Crazy, follows British teens as they receive inpatient treatment to at one of the largest mental health units in the U.K.

Stream it on Netflix.

7. Happy

What makes us happy? Happy tries to determine just that. This documentary takes a look at various cultural ideals of what constitutes true contentment.

Stream it on Netflix.

8. The Bridge

The Bridge features interviews with family members who have lost loved ones to suicide at this particular landmark.

Stream it on YouTube.

9. The Horse Boy

The Horse Boy is about one family's journey to find alternative treatments for their autistic son. Rowan Isaacson rarely communicastes with his parents, but when he find a special bond with horses, he begins to speak.

Stream it on Amazon.

10. The Devil & Daniel Johnston

This documentary chronicles the life of a manic-depressive musician and artist, Daniel Johnston.

Stream it on Amazon.

11. Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck

This documentary tells the story of Kurt Cobain's life and death, as well as the legacy he left behind.

Stream it on Amazon.

12. Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind

This moving documentary chronicles the rise of actor/comedian Robin Williams, shedding light on his struggles with mental health and addiction, which developed before he was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia.

Stream it on HBO Go.

13. Outside The House

Darnell Lamont Walker’s documentary Outside The House, focuses on the barriers to discussing mental health in Black communities.

Stream it on Outside the House website.

Remember to take care in choosing a film to watch. But with this list, you can start the new year with open, healthy conversations.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741. You can also reach out to the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 or the Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386, or to your local suicide crisis center.

If you or someone you know is seeking help for substance use, call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357).