12 Mental Health Documentaries Everyone Needs To Watch

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It's time to watch some documentaries about mental health.

12 Mental Health Documentaries You Need To Watch

Mental Health affects million of people in different ways. According to Mental Health America:

  • "1 in 5 Adults have a mental health condition, roughly over 40 million Americans."   

  • Mental health in younger people is getting worse. "Rates of you with severe depression increased from 5.9% in 2012 to 8.2% in 2015" and even with severe depression, 76% of youth are left with no or insufficient treatment."

  • "56% of American adults with a mental illness do not receive treatment. Even in Maine, the state with the best access, 41.4% of adults with a mental illness do not receive treatment."

  • "There is a serious mental health workforce shortage. In states with the lowest workforce, there is up to 6 times the individuals to only 1 mental health professional. This includes psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, counselors, and psychiatric nurses combined."

Mental illness is still stigmatized, leaving many people with misinformation, confused, or embarrassed. And while there are many struggles ahead for those battling mental disorders, there are documentaries available that shine light on many topics. From bipolar disorder to anorexia, the following documentaries about mental health open up a necessary dialogue for those who need it most and for most Americans to learn more about struggles family members, co-workers, or partners may face.

1. Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse

James Chasse, a man who had schizophrenia was brutally attacked by three Portland police officers. The beating ultimately killed him, which sparked the legal case of the Family of James Chasse vs. City of Portland. The documentary highlights the treatment of people with mental health disorders by law enforcement in a new light. The documentary was produced by the Mental Health Association of Portland.

2. The Devil and Daniel Johnston

The documentary follows the life of Daniel Johnston, a talented musician whose battle with bipolar disorder manifested into "demonic self-obsession," The film reminds viewers that beyond Johnston's battle, his talent supersedes his illness.

3. Running from Crazy

Ernest Hemingway was a talented writer, perhaps the best of the 21st century. His untimely death by suicide seemingly sparked a curse on the family. Seven suicides later, Mariel Hemingway seeks out information on suicide prevention, and aims to mend wounds caused by mental illness.

4. Don't Call Me Crazy

The British series follows teens as they undergo treatment for various mental illnesses. Viewers get a look inside their rehabilitation and get first hand accounts of what it's like struggling with eating disorders, depression, and other issues.

5. Simply Complicated

Demi Lovato opens up about her struggles with mental health. Her honesty and vulnerability is courageous and drives home the point that anyone, and everyone, can struggle silently.

6. Thin

HBO followed four women who struggle with eating disorders. It's real, uncomfortable, and honest. The documentary unpacks the issues women face with self-acceptance and how mental illnesses, such as bulimia and anorexia, can affect every aspect of a woman's life.

7. Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive

Actor, Stephen Fry opens up about his struggle with bipolar disorder. Viewers are introduced to a illness called, cyclothymia which is a mental disorder that "involves symptoms of depression and hypomania." The documentary won an Emmy in 2007, and lucky for you, it's free on YouTube.

8. The Horse Boy

A family sets out to Mongolia to find horse therapy for their young autistic son. The documentary shows what love, support, and determination can do for someone battling a mental illness.

9. John's Not Mad

Released in 1989 by BBC, John's Not Mad follows John Davidson and his struggle with Tourette syndrome. The film explores the common misconceptions about his disorder and the lengths his family must go to for help.

10. I'm Still Here: The Truth About Schizophrenia

One of the most complicated diseases, Schizophrenia has many symptoms. The National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression aided in the production of this documentary, which aims to raise awareness about the debilitating disease.

11. Happy

Happy - A Documentary Trailer from Wadi Rum Films on Vimeo.

What makes us happy? Why are we so hellbent on finding happiness? This documentary dives into the cultural differences that make human beings happy. Through interviews, the filmmakers travel the world to find what makes us happy!

12. The Bridge

The Golden Gate Bride is a historic landmark in San Francisco, but for some, it leads to their death. The Bridge features interviews with family members who have lost loved ones to suicide. If you or a loved one has thoughts of suicide, contact the suicide hotline prevention line for help: 1-800-273-8255.

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