As someone who struggles with depression, I take my mental health seriously and have always strived to spread awareness on various mental health issues through my writing. I am also constantly educating myself through movies and shows which are constantly trying to reduce the stigma around one’s mental health and it always inspires me to see a relatable character onscreen who is battling his/her mental demons like me and also goes through a personal growth.
Here are 8 shows which you can check out that will give you a deeper insight into mental health and mental illnesses such as PTSD, depression, schizophrenia and many more which are often not talked about enough and it will also make one sympathize with people who struggle with their mental health on a daily basis.
1) After Life
Tony, a small town journalist, is suicidal & depressed after the death of his wife Lisa. He puts up a wall of rudeness and wallows in self pity, making it difficult for people who love him to get through to him to help him or even for him to help himself in such a situation. As we all know, one must carry on & ‘life does go on’, but what of Tony’s life after Lisa? Will it all be ok again?
This show reminds me of a Mitch Albom novel & is a moving & realistic portrayal of the stages of the grieving process and depression. All the people entering & exiting the life of Tony (played very convincingly & with versatility by Ricky Gervais) leave their mark on him in their own way & help him develop. Even the dog has an important role to play. And they’re all ordinary people from all walks of life who’ve either lost someone or are down on their luck. The moral here is that in the end everyone suffers through pain, depression and grief, but through it all, opening up, asking for help or even surrounding yourself with the right people (or even animals) can be a way of coping and persevering.
I wanted to seriously cry into a napkin after each episode, but the sad moments are balanced with moments which lift one’s spirits & that’s the sole reason you need this show to keep you going through a lockdown or for when you’ve hit the lowest point & need inspiration to get off your arse & keep moving forward.
2) The Final Call
Ironically learnt about this thriller through an in-flight magazine & I was more drawn to it due to its protagonist (played by a favourite of mine, the versatile Arjun Rampal) who is a grief stricken suicidal pilot haunted by a tragic past & who is a victim of severe PTSD. His sudden decision to take the drastic step & end it all mid-flight is what forms the crux of this show’s ‘will he or won’t he’ plot. It is loosely based on Priya Kumar’s 2015 novel ‘I will go with you’.
While the show starts off well, with quite a few twists & great acting, especially from Arjun Rampal as Captain Karan, the suicidal pilot & the underrated Sakshi Tanwar (she plays Kiran, the eyes on the ground at Air Traffic Control tasked with talking the captain out of crashing the plane) it quickly sputters out of fuel due to unnecessary subplots & the result is a bumpy ride.
But despite its flaws, ‘The Final Call’ still cements its place as a web series that’s important during these turbulent times as suicide rates due to depression are at an all time high & there is a need for mental health awareness at home as well as at the workplace, so kudos to it for highlighting issues such as depression and post traumatic stress disorder.
A great comeback of sorts for the legendary Jim Carrey, this show is a must watch as it takes a look at the mental health of Mr. Pickles/Jeff, a stressed out children’s entertainer who has just lost his son & is using humour to cope, much to the chagrin of his estranged wife, friends and family.
Brought to you by the brilliant mind behind another great Jim Carrey starrer ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’, Michel Gondry, this tragicomedy (currently in its second season) features fantastic acting from a strong cast like Jim Carrey, Judy Greer & many more & shines a light on how things aren’t always deliriously happy & optimistic & how bad days can turn into worse days if one isn’t too careful.
It’s got light happy moments in the form of musical numbers, cameos from renowned celebs like Conan O’Brien, Ariana Grande, etc (who’ve struggled with depression in real life), has trippy, appealing & fun scenes which rely on traditional special effects, but also features dark, intense scenes which appeal to a more adult crowd, so don’t let the funniness distract you from the fact that this show depicts how complex and important life & maintaining our mental health is & how we mustn’t let it slip away or crumble from beneath us.
4) There she goes
A must watch & great show that spreads mental health awareness through the life of a young girl named Rosie who is born with a learning disability.
God bless the makers of this show, the immensely talented Jessica Hynes, the kid actors, the rest of the cast and obviously , David Tennant (whom I don’t thank enough for being at the forefront of yet another brilliant BBC show that highlights mental illness, like 1994’s hidden gem ‘Takin Over the Asylum’) for being the heart and soul of this show that teaches the viewers about the hurdles of living with a learning disability as well as the patience that parenting takes.
It’ll have you in tears and at the same time, it’ll give you joy and hope and the fact that it’s so realistic and delves into the psyche of both the kids and grownups are just some more of the plus points.
In HBO’s ‘Barry’, the protagonist Barry Berkman/Block (played by Bill Hader) ends up in Hollywood with his dark past as a PTSD afflicted Marine turned ruthless hitman and tries his luck as an actor, while desperately trying not to let his sins catch up to him. But along the way, he only manages to sabotage himself & create a toxic atmosphere for all those around him with hardly a chance for repentance.
‘Barry’ is a masterclass in acting, writing & directing as writers Bill Hader & Alec Berg brilliantly blend dark comedy with suspense, creating a rollercoaster of a show that delves into the psyche & emotions of not just the troubled protagonist hoping for change, but also in the minds of the supporting characters such as Sally who is equal parts selfish and equal parts ambitious, naive mobster Noho Hank and the devilish Fuches who is less a mentor and more a monster. The action scenes are not fit for the faint hearted but don’t glorify violence either.
Bill Hader as Barry shows tremendous range as a dramatic actor with this 2-time Emmy winning performance which is poles apart from his regular comedy schtick. While Stefon on SNL and his other funny characters were rib tickling, Barry Berkman will punch you in the ribs and shoot you point blank in the face with his terrible life decisions in each episode. It also helps when you know that Hader tends to derive from his own personal battles with anxiety and his real-life mental breakdowns to portray this character, so he comes off as a deeply troubled human who is all flesh and blood & who seriously needs help.
A dark comedy which is equal parts haunting, moving, shocking & heartbreaking, you need to binge this…RIGHT NOW.
6) Takin Over the Asylum
One of the first shows that inspired me to learn more and dig deeper into my own mental health, this BAFTA winning show from 1994 which can easily be watched for free on YouTube follows the shenanigans of a radio jockey named Eddie (Ken Stott) who is down on his luck but who starts his career anew in a Glaswegian mental asylum, running a makeshift radio station from one of the rooms there. He takes a 19 year old patient named Campbell Bain (a young & spritely David Tennant sinking his teeth into this pre-Doctor Who role & delivering a BAFTA worthy performance) under his wing. Campbell despite his manic depression and parental pressures aspires to be a radio jockey while his pal Fergus, a schizophrenic, finds his true passion in fixing broken radio equipment and through their joint passions, this trio manages to keep the almost bankrupt asylum running and also spread some joy and laughter through music.
As a teen battling depression and combatting the age-old Indian problem of parents pushing their kids into the science stream (my misfit era, I call it), I’d never related more to a young character who went through what I was going through when I first watched this show and though he was only fictional, Campbell Bain instantly clicked with me and was and still remains my role model and inspiration. This show still remains my earliest introduction & an eye-opener to the various kinds of mental illnesses out there without stereotyping the patients and it also portrays them humanely. It is also the sole reason I took up psychology through grades 11-12. A must watch.
7) Jessica Jones
Unlike most superheroes, Jessica Jones, the titular character in this namesake show isn’t an alien species or an Amazonian goddess, but a troubled super-human whom many people can relate to. She battles her mental demons & in the same breath, she battles the patriarchy and villains like the man behind her mental issues, Kilgrave ,who is as psychologically damaged as she is.
This show shines a light on the traumatic experiences of people subjected to psychological, sexual and child abuse and explores the toll all of this abuse has taken on the mental health of both its heroine and three dimensional villain.
This show which is more of a character study of sorts benefits from great performances from both Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones & David Tennant as Kilgrave & they both play their characters with nuance and layers. There is a great balance of action, drama as well as dark moments and viewers are reeled in by suspenseful scenes and plotlines such as Jessica almost being pushed to her breaking point with each episode and still rising to save the day despite the heavy toll on her mental health and despite certain revelations from her past which threaten to break her spirit with each passing day.
8) Doom Patrol
This show features an ensemble of bruised and broken characters, but the bruises and tears are less physical and more of the psychological kind. It isn’t your ordinary DC superhero show however and this group of superheroes considers themselves as a team of losers with failures, with each of them having something to lose and they are all battling their innermost mental demons- be it Cyborg/Vic with his tormented mind and PTSD , Robotman/ Cliff Steele who also struggles with coming to terms with some grievous past trauma , Negative Man/ Larry Trainor who beats himself up over his past mistakes every day, Elasti-Woman/ Rita Farr who has body image issues despite her ability to be flexible and be able to bend into any shape/form and Crazy Jane who is a textbook case of Dissociative identity disorder. They are all brought together by mad scientist Niles Caulder/ the Chief & not so silently being pursued by the villain of the piece Mr. Nobody who sets them up to fail via traps & mind games, managing to turn their lives & their mental health inside out & upside down quite literally.
Each character is far from perfect & a diamond in the rough with their own emotional baggage & enough character development to help delve into their psyche… But beware, it’s easy to get lost!
Each cast member from Brendan Fraser to Diane Guerrero shines in their respective roles and do complete justice to their well sketched out characters. Doom Patrol is truly an emotional rollercoaster for both the on-screen characters and viewers alike, but it is worth it.
If you’re looking for support for your mental health, you can check out online therapy platforms for additional information.