Movies can be a wonderful platform in which parents and children can have an honest dialogue about everyday life, as well as emotions/mental illness and the stigma that surrounds it. Here are three movies that can foster a dialogue in regards to mental illness and everyday life for individuals of various ages. Whether parents watch these movies with their kids or watch on their own, the following movies can be a great platform for conversation nonetheless.

Inside Out (Academy Award and Golden Globe winning Best Animated Film in 2016):

Although it has only been two years since Inside Out made its way around the world and into the everyday conversation surrounding basic emotions, Inside Out looks to be a movie classic and stand the test of time. Whether it be Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, or Disgust, these five characters and the emotions they represent are an amazing starting point to discuss emotional expression and identification with young children. The beauty of Inside Out is that they depict everyone (both children and adults) as having each of these basic emotions and that they are all equally important in regards to one’s identity and everyday emotional functioning. For parents that are looking at a way to validate or normalize “negative” feelings such as sadness and anger, Inside Out does an amazing job at making sure we realize and understand that we cannot survive on just positive emotions alone, but that negative emotions comprise an integral part of us as human/psychological beings. When it comes to being upset, frustrated, or sad, these feelings or emotions should not be minimized, denied, or pushed down. They should be accepted, embraced, and then explored to optimize each child’s optimal functioning and well-being. It is crucial that everyday feelings, such as anger, sadness, and disgust be processed and explored in order to foster positive and proactive emotional expression.

Perks of Being A Wallflower (2012)

Perks of Being A Wallflower masterfully depicts the struggles that adolescents have been going through throughout time. No matter the time period, geographic location, or various personalities involved, adolescents (particularly high school aged) have often begun the journey of finding where they belong, who they are, and how they fit into the world. This film is essentially The Breakfast Club, but with anxiety, depression, and trauma more fully integrated within its themes explored. The main character of the film, Charlie, feels alone and different from others in his high school. Through friendships and a new social group, he is able to discover that he is unique and valued. This film not only takes risks to address mental illness within the life of a teenager, but also effectively depicts the social nature for adolescents and the impact that social relationships have on a teenager’s view of him or herself, others, and the world. What Perks if Being A Wallflower can foster is a discussion surrounding the everyday difficulties that most if not all adolescents feel: Unseen, unheard, not fitting in, not knowing oneself. Adolescents

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

This film tackles the heavy subject of Bipolar Disorder, as well as grief/loss. The beauty of this film is that it does not make mental illness the defining trait of its main characters, but rather an aspect of their lives that can be addressed, treated, and survived with proper treatment, which includes positive peer, romantic, and family interpersonal relationships. Through the lens of the two characters (portrayed by Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence) dealing with Bipolar Disorder and grief/loss, respectively, this film looks through a raw and real lens the impact that mental illness has on not just the individual, but other people in the individual’s lives. These individuals can either choose to let the world dictate their path or let others in and in the process come out of their life’s journey and battle a much stronger individual and group member. Most importantly, this film shows that family and peer support play a crucial role on top of seeking appropriate mental health treatment to ensure optimal functioning for individuals who have mental illness.

Ultimately, these are three films that look at mental illness at various life stages/ages for an individual. There are many great films that address mental illness, but these three in particular are ones that also are an excellent platform in which parents/family members can discuss with their children/loved ones when watching together. Conversations, acceptance, and awareness are all vital to combat the stigma against mental illness and to allow our loved ones to know that they are not alone.