TV and Movies That Explore Mental Health


Abby Rickin-Marks

Youth Advisor at UpStreet

TV and Movies That Explore Mental Health!

During quarantine, many of us have been watching more television than we would typically. While there may be a healthy limit to the amount of binge watching you’re doing, many researchers have found that binge-watching while at home with an illness may find solace in it. And you can always use apps like Netflix Party or Disney+ Groupwatch to watch your favorite show while being social.

But of course, there is always the issue of what to watch. Having so many choices can sometimes feel like there’s too much pressure to find the perfect show or movie. Thus, I’ve compiled a list of shows and movies with excellent mental health representation across different streaming platforms.


1. THIS IS US (Hulu) – looks at panic disorders; also depicts mental health struggles of a black man (studies have found that black men are 20% more likely to report serious psychological distress than white men, but are more apprehensive about seeking professional help.

2. SUPERNATURAL (Netflix) – accurately portrays struggles of depression and anxiety

3. BOJACK HORSEMAN (Netflix) – struggles with addiction (alcoholism and substance abuse), relationships, and maintaining a celebrity status; accurate portrayal of depression

4. YOU”RE THE WORST (Hulu) – looks at two ends of the spectrum with self-involved and self-destructive main characters; focuses on clinical depression and how mental illness affects relationships.

5. UNITED STATES OF TARA (Hulu) – follows a journey of a woman with dissociative identity disorder (DID).

6. SHAMELESS (Netflix) – depiction of bipolar disorder and how medication can be helpful.

7. PLEASE LIKE ME (Hulu) – shows depictions of psychiatric hospitalization, panic attacks and depression.

8. JESSICA JONES (Netflix) – depiction of PTSD; not considered the traditional “strong, silent survivor”.

9. LADY DYNAMITE (Netflix) – based on the real-life story of comedian Maria Bamford and her experience of being hospitalized for bipolar disorder.

10. THE MAGICIANS (Netflix) – main characters grapple with depression and anxiety; realistic portrayal of grief after the death of a loved one.

11. CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND (Netflix) – main character diagnosed with bipolar disorder; scene where she overdoses on pills; after diagnosis, regularly attends therapy.

12. THIS WAY UP (Hulu) – main character tries to re-assimilate to typical life after being released from a mental hospital post-nervous breakdown.


1. A Beautiful Mind – based on true story of John Forbes Nash Jr, a mathematical savant with schizophrenia.

2. Matchstick Men – main character has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, agoraphobia, and panic attacks; honest depiction of rituals and behaviors of someone with OCD.

3. It’s Kind of a Funny Story – teenage boy checks himself into a psychiatric ward because of his depression and suicidal ideation; other patients aren’t “mad” or “insane;” instead, it’s a safe place where people are trying to get help.

4. Silver Linings Playbook – main character is forced to move back in with his parents after his untreated symptoms of bipolar disorder caused him to lose both his wife and his job; displays range of emotions that occur with bipolar disorder.

5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower – looks at childhood trauma (sexual abuse) and a stay in psychiatric hospital; shows growing up with mental illness.

6. The Skeleton Twins – shows depression in candid way.

7. Infinitely Polar Bear – father with bipolar disorder has to take care of his two daughters by himself.

8. Welcome to Me – woman goes off her medications for Borderline Personality Disorder; shows many traits of BPD, which leads her to take her mental health more seriously.

9. Inside Out – shows emotions while adjusting to a new life; views sadness as part of life.

10. Ordinary People – after accidental death of their son, a family tackles topics such as PTSD and survivor’s guilt.

11. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape – portrayal of eating disorder as well as autism.

12. Krisha – about an alcoholic visiting her family for Thanksgiving; tackles issue of addiction.



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