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Mental Health in the Mainstream Media

Photos: Courtesy of ABC, USA Network, Getty Images, The Weinstein Company, Stan & Deliver Films

Mental health has increasingly come to the forefront of discussions in all kinds of media. Here are just a fraction of the moments when TV and film used their platform to highlight mental health and help break down stigma.


Showtime debuts the controversial series “United States of Tara,” with Steven Spielberg attached as executive producer. This comedy-drama depicts the life of a suburban housewife and mother coping with dissociative identity disorder, a condition which affects roughly 1 to 3 percent of the American population according to recent studies.


While “Drop Dead Diva” was on the air, everyone had an opinion about this legal comedy-drama, which follows an overweight lawyer whose body is inhabited by the soul of a fashion model. During the show’s second season in 2010, the main character’s mother is diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

“Private Practice”

ABC airs an explosive episode of the medical drama “Private Practice.” In the episode Did You Hear What Happened to Charlotte King?, writer Shonda Rhimes explores the long-term effects of sexual abuse in the workplace.


Everyone had “Glee” fever in 2011. The show navigates a wide variety of social issues related to sexuality, race and relationships. In the episode Born This Way, Emma Pillsbury, the school’s guidance counselor, reveals she struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder, a disease impacting approximately 2.3 percent of working-age Americans.

Director Liza Johnson’s independent film “Return” showcases a soldier after a tour of duty as she struggles with her return to civilian life and finding a way to reconnect with others.


In the crime drama “Castle,” one character comes face-to-face with her post-traumatic stress disorder. According to the National Institutes of Health, 70 percent of adults in the United States have experienced some type of traumatic event in their lives.


The award-winning Showtime series “Homeland” follows Carrie Mathison, a high-ranking CIA agent who lives with bipolar disorder. This portrayal of bipolar disorder challenges the stigmatizing depiction of people with this condition as unemployed social outliers.

The blockbuster film “Silver Linings Playbook,” based on a novel by Matthew Quick, opens to rave reviews. Starring Bradley Cooper, the film explores what happens when a former teacher returns to his family and friends after spending eight months in a psychiatric hospital.


Crime drama “Perfect Sisters,” based on an infamous court case surrounding teenage sisters who were tried for murder, is released in theaters. Actress Mira Sorvino stars in her role as the mother who struggles with substance abuse.  


Lifetime miniseries “The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe” captures Hollywood’s most infamous icon in a new light and details the star’s experience growing up estranged from her mother, who suffered from severe paranoid schizophrenia.

USA Network’s “Mr. Robot” receives critical acclaim for the realistic depiction of mental illness surrounding its main character, who has dissociative identity disorder.


The documentary “Beyond Silence” premiers. The film, directed by Shaul Schwarz and executive produced by Demi Lovato, follows three strangers who find the courage to speak up about their personal battles with mental illness. “Stories have the power to change hearts and minds, shape perceptions and inspire action for the greater good,” Schwarz says.

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