Not that it seems like there’s ever a good time to suffer from a mental illness, but now more than ever, creators are making content that both resonates and helps those suffering. The following list contains some of our favorite shows and episodes that cover mental health topics and issues in their storylines. So, the next time you feel the need to binge out, try these mental health shows!
Please note that this article also covers sensitive topics.
Our Favorite Mental Health Shows
This Is Us
“This Is Us” is an emotional drama that shows how the lives of the Pearson family intersect in unexpected ways. The show has long been praised for the way it has handled anxiety. Especially a scene in season one when Randall has a panic attack. In the storyline of the show, writers are also making viewers aware of what “overcoming” depression is like via the character Toby.
The show shows that depression and anxiety aren’t cured overnight by medicine, a good day, or good news. But rather show that mental illness is something that takes time. Not to mention the idea that mental illness is constant and can be too much for other people to bear. This Is Us sheds light on the stigma of having a mental illness is real and it affects personal relationships and why those who suffer from depression withdraw from others when our symptoms flare-up.
This is important as the show also portrays grown men dealing with emotions and struggles and dealing with mental health. It is something that is, for whatever reason, not talked about enough. This character progression can also help family members understand what those who suffer from depression go through on a daily basis. Most of all highlighting that when things are hard pills and counseling don’t magically fix it: it takes time.
A show that has been praised by its handling of mental health issues, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend follows main character Rebecca and her journey of mental health diagnosis and treatment in a musical theater lens. The show nails the isolation you feel when going through the unknown. And the times when you feel like you are the only one in the world feeling the way you feel. They also perfectly capture the frustration that comes along with knowing something is wrong but not having a clear diagnosis.
A major breakthrough of the show is when Rebecca is finally given a diagnosis – Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). The scene following her diagnosis shows Rebecca manically Googling anything and everything about BPD. This goes against the request of her therapist, who knew the issues with Googling a diagnosis. That scene resonates with others as many have found articles demonizing those with BPD and have therefore been afraid to talk about or seek help.
Another fan favorite is a musical number devoted to the normalization of anti-depressants (they are so not a big deal!).
BoJack Horseman (Specifically Season 4, Episode 6)
The show follows the washed-up 90s TV star (BoJack) and his struggles with addiction, relationships, and maintaining his celebrity status, all the while satirizing the entertainment industry and current events. This Netflix show has gained a cult following but is perhaps best known for its accurate portrayal of depression. In this specific episode of BoJack Horseman, viewers get to hear BoJack’s constant negative thoughts such as:
“Oh, I don’t deserve breakfast. Shut up.”
“What are they talking about right now? Probably you and what a dumb piece of trash you are, you fat sack of idiot.”
This scene has resonated with many as it is a great demonstration on what you hear inside your own mind when you suffer from a mental illness (especially anxiety and depression). Viewers have claimed this specific episode made them feel both seen and “normal” as it felt like creators finally portrayed that inner-dark voice correctly.
Parks and Recreation
A show known for its funny characters and moments, Parks and Rec has also been applauded for the way it depicted depression through the notoriously “happy” character, Chris Traeger. Chris’ journey is extremely relatable as it shows spiraling into depressive episodes. These scenes helped normalize the ups and downs of depression. Highlighting the concept of being extremely happy one minute and then falling into a downhill spiral over “something small.”
This kind of character is so important to show because oftentimes depression doesn’t “look” like what we think it does. While we often generalize depression as being “sad,” the reality is it can sometimes look like the exact opposite.
The Netflix original series “Jessica Jones” was based on a Marvel comic of the same name. The show has been praised for the way it handles post-traumatic stress disorder. Viewers have noted that the show portrays a highly accurate representation of PTSD. Producers made sure she wasn’t depicted in the way society has deemed “acceptable”. She wasn’t the strong, silent survivor. Her survival was messy, her flashbacks unpredictable. And her coping mechanisms possibly less than ideal but relatable non-the-less
The show’s focus on trauma and mental illness was intentional. When asked about the way the show dealt with abuse, rape, and PTSD, showrunner Melissa Rosenberg told the Los Angeles Times:
“Playing them as honestly as possible was very much the objective from the beginning. The tone is meant to be very grounded and real, so you have to be very grounded and real with whatever subjects you’re dealing with. So there was no glossing this over. It was really an exploration of a survivor and her healing, to the degree that she does, in facing those demons quite literally.”
What Shows Help You Cope with Your Struggles?
We are genuinely excited to see mental illness covered in so many different, yet relatable lenses. What shows have helped you during times of struggle or helped you feel less alone? Let us know in the comments as we would love to check them out as a means of helping others!
CPA Counseling Wants to Help!
Counseling can be a helpful tool to help you make mindfulness techniques a part of your daily life. Sharing your burnout with your therapist can help you both stay on the same page and keep you accountable in working towards your goals. Therapy and counseling are safe spaces. They are spaces where you can voice your concerns, develop coping and communication skills, and find the support you need.
Remember, therapy is hard work! It can feel extremely uncomfortable and even exhausting. Having a hand to hold and help guide you will only add to your personal success. Cristina Panaccione and Associates Counseling has two locations in the South Hills of Pittsburgh and one in the Robinson area. We are currently accepting a limited number of new patients, so check out our videos to learn more about how we can help you!
Scott Cunningham – LPC
For the past 20 years, Scott has been providing a safe and supportive environment where people feel comfortable talking about their depression, fears, stresses, and hopes for life. Having a collaborative relationship with clients is important to him. Scott brings hope and knowledge into his sessions and provides psycho-education to aid in the effectiveness of therapy. He works with clients coping with issues such as, but not limited to anxiety, trauma, depression, partner-relational issues & phase of life transitions. My experience entails couples, adolescent, family and adult counseling. He is certified in Chemical Dependency Counseling, ASIST Suicide Intervention, Crisis Intervention Stress Management, and Comprehensive Crisis Management. He has earned his Master’s Degree in Counseling Education from the University of Pittsburgh and a Bachelor’s of Science in Christian Counseling from Fort Wayne Bible College.
Scott’s goal is to help people struggling with trauma to regain stability and strength as well as insight into their issues. He believes that everyone has an innate ability to grow and learn. He enjoys helping people accomplish that goal and live better and more productive lives.