5 Documentaries About Mental Health That Have Helped Keep The Conversation Moving

Simply Complicated Trailer/YouTube

In April 2017, mental health charity Mind revealed that approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK experience a mental health problem each year, and 1 in 6 people in England experience a common mental health problem such as anxiety and depression in any given week. There is undeniably a mental health epidemic going on in the UK, and it needs to be addressed. For some, the arts (from literature to painting to music) are a great way to understand and process the complexities of mental health, and documentaries about depression and mental health conditions can be especially powerful in raising awareness about specific conditions, as well as helping those who are suffering with them.

Documentary film is a particularly poignant medium through which to explore mental health, as it allows viewers to see real-life people as they set out to understand and, sometimes, overcome the conditions they are dealing with. Below are five documentaries that have helped to move the conversation about mental health forward, and have allowed viewers to gain greater insight into certain conditions through the personal experiences of others. Some of these documentaries feature famous faces, and some focus on the lives of those outside the public eye, but each film has its own unique and important story to tell.


'Girls On The Edge'

'Girls On The Edge'/BBC Two

Winning 'Best Documentary' in Mind's 2018 Media Awards, this film follows three teenagers and their struggles with mental health after being sectioned indefinitely under the Mental Health Act. A hard yet necessary film to watch, Girls On The Edge allows us to see the true impact that mental-health conditions such as depression can have on young women and their families.

Watch it on: iPlayer


'Running From Crazy'

'Running From Crazy'/Cabin Creek Films

This film, which first debuted on the Oprah Winfrey network, documents the personal journey of model and actress Mariel Hemingway, granddaughter of the illustrious American author Ernest Hemingway, who took his own life in July of 1961. Directed by the Academy Award-winning Barbara Kopple, Running From Crazy follows Mariel as she attempts to understand the history of suicide and mental illness within her family and find a way to move forward from the tragedies of generations past.

Watch it on: Amazon Prime Video


'Simply Complicated'

'Simply Complicated'/Philymack Productions

Simply Complicated revolves around singer Demi Lovato and her struggles with mental illness and addiction. In this open and honest documentary, Lovato shares some of her deepest struggles and how she deals with them while existing in the public eye.

Watch it on: YouTube


'Breaking The Cycle'

'Breaking The Cycle'/BBC Three

A documentary short, this five-minute film follows Philip Coleman and his struggles with severe anxiety as part of BBC's 'Life Through My Lens' series. Coleman narrates the clips, explaining exactly how his anxiety manifests and the ways in which he tries to deal with it, thus 'breaking the cycle.'

Watch on: iPlayer


'Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive'

Andreas Rentz/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

This documentary, which won an Emmy in 2007, follows TV personality Stephen Fry as he attempts to understand more about bipolar disorder, a condition he was diagnosed with at the age of 37. In The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, Fry speaks to celebrities such as Carrie Fisher and Richard Dreyfuss to hear about their own experiences with the condition. He also talks to people outside of the public eye, as well as mental-health experts, to gain deeper understanding about the complexities and manifestations of bipolar disorder.

Available on: Amazon