The latest movie to tackle the subject of mental illness, “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” imagines the life of a suburban teen who struggles with clinical depression amidst the many pressures of modern life.
Many mental health advocates take special note this time of year of media portrayals of mental illness — as well as stereotypes fueled by Halloween costumes that mock the symptoms of mental illness and those who live with them.
If you’ve ever considered a costume that includes a stratightjacket, a reference to psychiatric hospitalization or an homage to things like lobotomies, please don’t ever go there. You wouldn’t parade around in a pink pair of scrubs that read “cancerous” across the chest, would you?
Instead, take some time to educate yourself about mental illness. Spend time with a family living with mental illness. Read reliable books on the topic. Discuss films that address challenges mental illness raises for individuals, families and communities.
“It’s Kind of a Funny Story” makes my list of movies about mental illness that do more to enlighten than to stigmatize. Others on this list include:
The Soloist. 2009, PG-13. Features Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey, Jr. Based on the actual friendship of a disheartened newspaper columnist and a Julliard-trained musician whose mental illness leads to homelessness. From a book by the same name.
Canvas. 2006, PG-13. Featuring Marcia Gay Harden, Joe Pantoliano and Devon Gearhart. Based on a family’s experience of life with a mother diagnosed with schizophrenia.
A Beautiful Mind. 2001, PG-13. Features Russell Crowe. Based on the life of famed mathematician John Nash, who earned the 1994 Nobel Prize in Economics, while living with schizophrenia.
And if you encounter stigma against those living with mental illness in any form of media or art — including movies, television programs, books and more — contact NAMI Stigmabusters to report the problem and learn ways we can all work together to reduce discrimination against those facing mental health challenges.
Note: Although Halloween has come and gone this year, stigma still abounds. So please keep these thoughts in mind whenever you have occasion to play dress up.
Coming up: Stage Mom reviews the new “Harry Potter” flick