Depression: Can Movies Help?


By Frankie Wallace.

Depression: Can Movies Help?

Art and entertainment are powerful forces that offer interesting and insightful perspectives and story lines that can create long lasting impact. Movies are works of art that are carefully tended to, and are created with the intention of swaying human emotion in a certain direction. They can be deeply influential, which is why there are panels of experts that dedicate awards to certain films that find new and exciting ways to demonstrate scenes and events on the big screen.

Directors have the resources to design films in whatever way needed to draw attention to the areas they are attempting to emphasise. This provides them with ample opportunity to affect human emotions, whether it be through the acting, score, or the general cinematography of the film. For those struggling with depression, movies give them a chance to find art that can help soothe their emotions, or make them feel more lighthearted.

Rates of Depression

In the U.S., 26% of adults suffer from depression, making it the most common mental illness in the country, as well as around the world. Depression is the second leading cause of disability worldwide, often creating huge obstacles for individuals to overcome in their day-to-day lives. Even with medication, depression can be extremely difficult for people to manage, as its effects are often so intertwined with a person’s mental processes. This can also have the effect of making people feel alone and misunderstood, which worsens symptoms.

As an additional obstacle, many people don’t realise how disabling depression can be, which can result in miscommunications between depressed individuals and their peers. This can be especially true in adolescents who have limited life experience and spend a lot of time around students of the same age. According to Ohio University, 27% of students experienced extreme amounts of stress in 2014, and 30% of these students struggled with depression as a result.

Depression can make it difficult for students to focus on school, as well as do many other basic life responsibilities. For adolescents, as well as adults, depression can be inhibiting, preventing them from achieving self-fulfilment and a good quality of life. Depression can impair individuals from having successful work and personal relationships with other people, and can even cause problems in a person’s sex life. These effects can all add up to have other health effects on those suffering from depression, impacting all areas of their lives.

How Movies Can Help

Movies are often based off of the most entertaining areas of people’s lives, whether they be the more fun moments or the most tragic. Movie writers and directors often use their keen attention to detail to depict beautiful story lines, and to tell the story in a way that will bring about certain feelings. This makes film one of the best kinds of media to consume for those seeking to feel a certain way. It can not only be healing in this way, but it can provide new insight and perspective on events that may be causing a person’s own depression.

Movies provide a window into the soul, allowing viewers to see stories from many viewpoints. They can help individuals understand the actions of people in their lives, and perhaps see how various courses of action can impact those around them. Whether the movies are happy rom-coms, psych-thrillers, or tragic dramas, they can help people feel whatever way they need to feel to cope with their own depressive emotions. Although many people consume media as an art, many others use films to cope with their feelings and subjects they’re struggling with.

Some popular films that people use to cope with depression include:

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

This film stars Bradley Cooper as Pat Solitano and Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany. Pat and Tiffany are two characters who have recently suffered from difficult and tragic life events that have triggered their mental illness to new points. The film depicts them as struggling and coping with mental illness, and although some scenes are quite serious, the movie overall is lighthearted and has a happy ending with resolution for each character.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

This friendly alien classic was directed by Steven Spielberg, and shows a gentle alien lost and alone on Earth. He soon meets a child named Elliot (Henry Thomas), and they become fast friends. Elliot brings E.T. to his home, where he attempts to keep his alien friend a secret; a feat that becomes impossible when his friend falls ill. This film shows a character who is all alone in a strange place, but with caring friends by his side and a spirit of perseverance, they’re able to get through it.

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

One reason people often go through difficult periods in their lives is due to heartbreak and divorce. This film stars Meg Ryan as Sally Albright, and Billy Crystal as Harry Burns, two characters who meet several times throughout their lives, becoming friends after bonding through heartbreak. The quirky rom-com shows that both of them have a hard time for years, before eventually realising they’re in love with each other.

The characters in each of these films go through large personal struggles as they attempt to find happiness, which can be extremely relatable for people suffering from mental illness. It can help them feel less alone, as they’ll understand that it’s not uncommon for people to go through difficult periods in which they can’t seem to find happiness. One of the most difficult aspects of depression is the isolation that comes with it, and the feeling that there’s no coming out of it.

According to Psycom, “Some therapists even use “cinema therapy” to help their patients explore their own psyches and as a catalyst for the therapeutic process.” Movies can provide a therapeutic process by provoking emotional responses from individuals, which can help them understand their own feelings better.

Movies can be really therapeutic for those who enjoy watching them. They give the viewer a chance to relax while tapping into their subconscious emotions and getting an idea of what they’re going through by watching a movie. Before movies, theatre was used to depict stories and entertain people, but today, we have easy access to a huge number of films that can influence the way we feel; and it’s important to take advantage of that whenever possible.

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