Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day, an annual initiative to help end the stigma surrounding mental illness. With more characters dealing with mental health issues in TV and movies than ever before, education is taking place in the media, giving viewers a place to feel a little less alone.
In honour of Bell Let’s Talk Day, we’re looking at five shows that got mental health right.
You can take part in Bell Let’s Talk Day by sending a text message, making a mobile or long distance call using Bell Media products, tweeting with the hashtag #BellLetsTalk, using the Snapchat #BellLetsTalk filter, sharing Bell’s Let’s Talk Facebook video or using the Facebook image frame. Each time you do any of these activities, Bell will donate 5¢ to mental health initiatives.
Actress and writer Lena Dunham has admitted that sometimes her personal life plays into her Girls character Hanna and never was life imitating art more powerful then when Hanna struggled with her OCD. After realizing her dream of scoring a book deal, the stress of completing a novel in one month brings on Hanna’s obsessive compulsive disorder, with the character working through her symptoms and eventually reaching out to her therapist.
Degrassi has a long history of getting mental illness right. In the 1980s, the series ventured into uncharted water, showing depression leading to suicide and a character with an eating disorder. In the 2000s, Degrassi explored eating disorders again, depression, and bipolar disorder twice, and most recently, included the suicide of beloved character Cam. What made Cam’s story so important to tell was that his character, a teen who was popular, athletic, got good grades, had a doting girlfriend, was not the stereotypical ‘face’ of depression, reinforcing that the disease can truly affect anyone.
Fans of the dark rom com were shocked this season when main character Gretchen began sneaking out in the middle of the night to cry in her car. Gretchen eventually revealed her clinical depression diagnosis, with her life slowly becoming consumed by her illness. You’re The Worst didn’t gloss over the effects of depression, highlighting the toll it takes on not only the person suffering, but those around them as well. The season did end on high note, but not before showcasing what it really feels like to live with depression.
The medical comedy by Chuck Lorre had a knack for bringing on the tears at the end of each episode and often these emotions were a result of characters dealing with mental illness. One of the most resonating examples was recurring character Dr. Casey, played by Michael J. Fox. While at first Casey is resented for his aptitude in diagnosing patients and completing surgeries in record time, the staff later understand that the flip side to Casey’s ability to study constantly is that his OCD makes it difficult for him complete other seemingly simple tasks. While Casey is able to take his diagnosis and find success in the workplace, the effects of his OCD cause a constant struggle when completing simple tasks in his personal life.
Over nine seasons, millions have watched as Dr. Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) struggles with undiagnosed OCD and Asperger’s Syndrome. While the series often makes light of Sheldon’s personality traits, what its also done is brought a specific type of mental illness into the mainstream. Sheldon may not always know how to interact with others, but he has still enjoyed a successful career and social life. Rather than trying to learn like other people and treat his obsessive nature as a negative, Sheldon has used his focus to reach the top of his field. Different isn’t bad, it’s just different.