Mental Health Documentaries
Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.7 million, or 18.6%—experiences mental illness in a given year. Considering these startling numbers, it’s vital to be educated on mental health, as it’s likely that you or your teen have/will experience a mental illness during either of your lifetimes. Understanding the degrees of adult and teenage mental illness helps to alleviate stigma and increase awareness of how you and your teen can both keep healthy.
If you’re looking for resources, check out these five movies about mental illness that discuss issues from a variety of perspectives. You can also find these documentaries online for free.
Mental Health Movies That Educate
1. The Anonymous People
This mental health documentary follows the story of people from all walks of life who come clean with their own stories about the shame and secrecy of recovery from addictions to alcohol and drugs. This mental health movie is about the over 23.5 million Americans living in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction and their struggle fighting the social stigma toward mental health and addiction. The Anonymous People is told through a range of people and occupations: everyday citizens, leaders, volunteers, corporate executives, public figures, and celebrities who want to help save the lives of others just like them. This mental health movie is a great way to initiate a dialogue about understanding addiction, addiction stigma, and the journey to recovery.
2. Of Two Minds
Of Two Minds (free here) is a mental health movie that weaves together the stories of several Americans living with bipolar disorder and explores their triumphant highs and despairing lows. Of Two Minds follows four people who have bipolar disorder over three years. The film also touches upon the topic of medication for bipolar disorder; in the movie, two of the subjects are taking medication, and two are not. This mental health documentary opens the door for people to have important conversations with family members and friends who have bipolar disorder, as well as for society to have conversations about this topic that affects much of the US teen and adult population.
3. Neurons To Nirvana
This controversial documentary (free here) explores the history of four powerful psychedelic substances (LSD, Psilocybin, MDMA and Ayahuasca) and their previously established medicinal potential to treat a wide variety of ailments, from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to cancer. This mental health documentary features interviews with some of the world’s foremost researchers, writers, and pioneers in the growing field of psychedelic psychotherapy, such as Gabor Mate, Rick Doblin, Dennis McKenna, and Michael C. Mithoefer.
4. OC87: The Obsessive Compulsive, Major Depression, Bipolar, Asperger’s Movie
OC87: The Obsessive Compulsive, Major Depression, Bipolar, Asperger’s Movie, is a mental health documentary by Bud Clayman that tells of his own 30-year struggle to overcome his mental health illnesses and fulfill his dream of becoming a filmmaker. Clayman directed this mental health movie along with Scott Johnston, a mental health professional who worked at Project Transition, a treatment facility in suburban Philadelphia where Clayman lived from 1992 to 2000. In an article by LA Times, Clayman states, “[Johnston] got me on the idea of recovery and we started working on the script and thought about situations that would bring out behavior in me.” The film features Clayman throughout two years as he attempts to conquer every day fears such as riding a bus or walking down the street. Clayman confesses that his obsessive-compulsive disorder has harmed his relationships with others and affected his ability to become a filmmaker. The documentary depicts how therapy has helped Clayman overcome his struggles and enter a path of recovery after many years of serious mental health illnesses.
5. Lost Angels: Skid Row Is My Home
This compelling documentary (free here) about Skid Row, an area in Los Angeles with about 10,000 mentally ill people live on the streets or in low-income housing, finds both desperation and inspiration reflected in the area’s indigent population, highlighting their struggles with homelessness and mental health illnesses. This mental illness movie features eight people who have found a way to make a life for themselves in this unique community. This mental health movie demonstrates how providing a community and housing to homeless people is helping many to recover from mental illness and substance abuse and to find stability.