Helping you get through tough times

The silver linings of films about mental health

Vicky Kavanagh, Youth Ambassador for ReachOut.com, welcomes contemporary films taking on mental health in a realistic and human way. 

With Silver Linings Playbook seeing Jennifer Lawrence win best actress at the 2013 Oscars and now, another movie, Side Effects, just released that deals with depression, mental health is being actively discussed in our culture.

Control your own culture

silver linings playbook stillChuck Palahnuik, the author of Fight Club once said, “The first step – especially for young people with energy and drive and talent, but not money – the first step to controlling your world is to control your culture. To model and demonstrate the kind of world you demand to live in. To write the books. Make the music. Shoot the films. Paint the art.”

It’s an interesting observation that seems quite relevant now, as popular culture takes on the topic of depression and mental health.

Viewing the process

I’m glad to see the subject entering mainstream discussion and in a mainly, approachable, positive way. In Silver Linings Playbook, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence portray the process of recovery with poise, humour and honesty. It’s not all sunshine and roses and it’s also not easy; but it’s real.

Different approach

I’ve yet to see Side Effects and from what I can gather, it takes a different approach to the topic. The film is a psychological thriller which examines the dangers of easy prescription of medication for depression. However, what the two films do have in common is the theme of mental health.

Common experience 

The fact that the topic is becoming so prevalent in our films, books and even music demonstrates how common struggles with one’s mental health actually are. We all experience times when our mental health is put under strain. The parameters of that strain differs from those experiencing a difficult time to those who are suffering from long-term depression or anxiety. But we all have our own brush with the area, so why is the topic still so stigmatised?

That question raises more issues than I could address in an entire book. People still see mental health as a mystery, something dark and scary and dangerous. Will an admission of difficulty make me weak? Make people think I’m crazy? Isolate me?

Importance of good mental health

But as our media is showing us in different ways, many of us have feelings of despair or despondency. There isn’t a mystery to mental health, but there is a lack of awareness about the importance of good mental health and how to take care of yours, which is different to mystery.

Mental health needs to be normalised in how we discuss it. It’s not something which should be talked about in hushed tones or shame.

Taking away the mystery

Turning around and telling a friend that you’ve been having a crap time lately because work is getting on top of you and your boyfriend is annoying you and your family is just plain doing your head in, doesn’t make you crazy or abnormal.

In fact, it’s the most normal thing in the world. If we could just recognise and believe in that truth, we can see that the mystery is nothing but smoke and mirrors.

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