Trigger warning: This piece contains details about a variety of mental health conditions.
Sadly, it's only in recent years that mental health has come to the forefront of public discussion in terms of politics and news. However, when it comes to art, the mind and all thats associated with it has always served as a powerful source of inspiration for creators — be it artists, authors, musicians, TV writers, or filmmakers. And one platform that hosts a tonne of high-quality TV and film about mental health is Netflix UK. Never one to shy away from tricky topics, the streaming service has some stunning content surrounding subjects such as political unrest, criminal activity, and human struggle. And the stories it features focussing on mental health are some of the best out there.
Netflix UK's film selection ranges from the factual to the fictional, the hilarious to the harrowing, and everything in between. And they all prove just how important it is to discuss these topics. When handled correctly, on-screen portrayals of mental health can hit all kinds of chords with audiences, and share some powerful messages.
Below is my list of the best Netflix UK films that focus on mental health. Although these films are in no way perfect, I believe each has something important to say about a topic that we all could take time to learn more about.
1. 'Minimalism' — 2016
In an age where accumulating stuff is what many people strive for, it's important to step back and take stock. Take stock of what is or isn't serving you, of what is actually bringing you joy.
In this documentary, Joshua Fields Millburn celebrates the fact that less is more and looks at the positive effect that a more minimalist approach can have on our mental health.
2. 'To The Bone' — 2017
The story of Ellen, a 20-year-old woman who is battling anorexia. In this film, Ellen goes on a journey of illness, seeking treatment, and meeting new and interesting people. To The Bone is full of heartbreak and hilarity.
Dr Melissa Miller, an expert psychiatrist in eating disorders, spoke to Shrink Tank about To The Bone. She explained that how impressed she was with its honest portrayal of eating disorders, stating: "I am ... impressed with that this movie got it right about what eating disorders are, and what treatment needs to be about. Most people wrongly assume eating disorders are all about food or looking good enough. That once a person feels thin enough they will be happy, and this is all a choice ... The truth is, eating disorder behaviours are an ineffective solution to a very real problem."
3. 'Take Your Pills' — 2018
This documentary looks at why, how, and who Adderall is being used by and the potential risks involved in it. As well as speaking about the positive side of the drug too.
4. 'Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond' — 2017
A documentary about the making of Jim Carey's hit film Man On The Moon.
The film, about famous comedian Andy Kaufman, saw Carey go completely method in his approach. This decision affected Carey's mental health to an enormous degree and, in Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond, we see the extent to which the character took over his mind during the film's production.
5. 'It's Kind Of A Funny Story' — 2010
In It's Kind Of A Funny Story, 16-year-old Craig Zilner decides that he needs to get some help. It seems that the stress of his studies have pushed him over the edge, and even had him contemplating suicide. After seeing a doctor, he is checked into a mental health care facility much to the shock of his parents. And much to his almost instant regret.
Things take a strange turn when he finds out that, owing to a complication, he has to stay on the adult ward. It's there that he meets friends that change his life forever. Including Zach Galifianakis, who plays Bobby.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness ranked this as one of the best films about mental health, stating that that hospital featured in the film "is not a scary place and the patients are not portrayed as 'mad' or 'insane' — it’s a safe place where people struggling are getting help, and using humour as a relief from the serious conditions that brought them there. This Hollywood approach to a psychiatric unit may be more comical than any real-life scenario, but it helps normalise the fact that sometimes people need this level of care."
5. 'Girl, Interrupted' — 1999
Girl, Interrupted is a film based on the memoir of Susanna Kaysen and the time she spent in a mental health facility.
It tells the story of her mental health treatment and the people she meets along the way.
Speaking about the film for the Huffington Post, writer Stephanie Watson explained how important was to her as someone who has suffered from depression and anxiety since her teens. "Susanna Kaysen is a symbol of every young girl out there who has ever felt they have no clue of what is going on inside them, both in terms of just having a difficult time growing up, and in terms of mental illness coming out of nowhere and kicking you while you're down," she writes. "I related to her confusion, and her journey taught me that just because you have no idea what's going on in your mind, it doesn't mean you’re doomed."
6. 'Not Alone' — 2017
Not Alone is a documentary that follows the tragic event of a teenager taking her own life. Made by the teenager's best friend, it sees young people who've suffered from mental health issues speak openly about how they felt at the time. About the isolation and sadness they experienced. All with the aim of letting others know that they are not alone.
7. 'Good Will Hunting' — 1997
This film, which stars Robin Williams and Matt Damon, tells the story of a self-taught genius who, while working as a janitor in top American university MIT, finds himself in legal trouble. As a part of his case, he has to seek out professional therapeutic help. "This film unpacks themes of childhood development, the vulnerability in masculinity, and personal growth," therapist Jonathan Hetterly wrote for Shrink Tank.
Good Will Hunting portrays the benefits of therapy and the ways in which it can help those who take part in it.
If you have been affected by any of the issues mentioned in this piece, contact Mind by phone (0300 123 3393), email (email@example.com), or text (86463).