Thanks to some complex portrayals by some amazing actresses — and let’s not forget some stellar writing by series scribes — television is changing how mental health issues are seen. It’s been a taboo topic for far too long, something many don’t want to talk about, whether they’re suffering from it or have a loved one that is. But thanks to these characters, the stigma surrounding mental illness is slowly, but surely, starting to dissipate.
This is what they taught us:It's never good to keep things bottled up and rather than sweep things under the rug, find someone to talk to so those issues can be confronted.
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Jessica Jones, Jessica Jones
Nola Darling, She’s Gotta Have It
This is what they taught us:Like Nola, who visited a psychic, tarot card reader and spiritual cleanser before realizing what she needed was a therapist, it might take a few tries to figure out what method of treatment works best.
Gretchen Cutler, You’re the Worst
This is what they taught us:Sometimes pushing family and friends away or keeping them at arm's length might seem like a selfless thing, in an effort to not burden them, but it's a time where you can be a little selfish. Also? Those who suffer from depression don't need to be fixed — it's something that happens that just needs to be accepted.
Rainbow Johnson, Black-ish
"Dre, I don't have postpartum. I'm a doctor, and I would know."
This is what they taught us:That denial is so relatable to so many women because they don't want to ask for help and aren't used to being in a position where they feel they need to. But that anxiety, those overwhelming, complex feelings, that shame and embarrassment, shouldn't be ignored and should be discussed and shared. And if it takes educating those who are nearest and dearest to watch out for signs because one might not be in the right state of mind to ask for help or support if and when it does hit, then do it.
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Rebecca Bunch, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
This is what they taught us:Just because a person thinks they're in a healthy enough space doesn't mean their meds should be scrapped. It just means they're working.
Penelope Alvarez, One Day at a Time
This is what they taught us:Being perfect is overrated. Balancing a career with child-rearing is tough but doing all that while facing emotional and mental challenges of your own can make a person feel like she's drowning. In that "imperfection," as long as it's acknowledged, she can do great things. Heck, she can do everyday normal things. And sometimes that's half the battle.
Maria Bamford, Lady Dynamite
This is what they taught us:The portrayal of the different mental states people go through, and how they overcome it, is so important. Everyone who has mental health issues deal with it in different ways and if it's looked at in a comedic way, that's OK — but do it openly and honestly.
Dr. Jo Karev, Grey’s Anatomy
This is what they taught us:It can take time for a person to not only come to terms with whatever they're dealing with but also actually deal with said issues. Like with most of these, communication is key — but only when ready.
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Carrie Mathison, Homeland
This is what they taught us:Witnessing Carrie keeping her condition under control, thanks to medication and a strong support system, but also seeing her experience psychotic episodes when she's off her meds, is proof to only stop taking them if a doctor gives the OK.
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Dr. Lisa Hudson, Being Mary Jane
This is what they taught us:Like many cultures around the world, the African-American community typically doesn't like to tackle the subject of mental health and suicide and tend to view depression as a weakness — but that's a stigma that needs to be eradicated, stat.
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Kimmy Schmidt, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
This is what they taught us:It's always easier to help others with their problems rather than confront your own but eventually something's going to give.
Mickey Dobbs, Love
This is what they taught us:Being self-aware and unapologetic is always a good thing — even when you're dealing with a not-so-good thing.
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Rachel Goldberg, UnREAL
This is what they taught us:Even bad people have problems.
Charley Bordelon West, Queen Sugar
This is what they taught us:It's OK to admit you're not doing as well as you're pretending you are.
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Hannah Horvath, Girls
This is what they taught us:Unlike Dunham, who revealed her symptoms at an early age and has been seeing a therapist ever since, the same can't be said for Horvath, who couldn't find a therapist or doctor she liked enough to work with.
Jessi Glaser, Big Mouth
This is what they taught us:Jessi is able to recognize that she needs the help of a therapist. Acknowledging that is half the battle won.
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Effy Stonem, Skins
This is what they taught us:There's nothing logical about mental illness. It might seem like it's making a person weak but, if anything, it's giving a strong person the chance to show their fight and inner fire.
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Molly Carter, Insecure
This is what they taught us:It's understandable to be afraid of expressing feelings into actual words. But it can be extremely powerful telling someone a secret or burden that's been buried or carried for a long time.
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Hannah Baker and Jessica Davis, 13 Reasons Why
This is what they taught us:There isn't a right way for victims of sexual violence to "be," but the emotional damage can be crippling. Jessica copes by skipping school and partying and drinking, trying to forget about it all, while Hannah does the opposite and withdraws and sinks further into her PTSD and her increasing depression.
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Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren, Orange Is the New Black
This is what they taught us:Suzanne’s character has inadvertently shined a light on the prejudice and misunderstandings many individuals with mental health issues face within the justice system. She teaches us that it can be difficult to thrive when our circumstances are toxic. Perhaps she would have benefitted from earlier interventions by mental health professionals, rather than being locked away in prison where she continued to face abuse.
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