Mental Health Awareness Week – Hollywood Tackles The Taboo

Written by Chris Gelderd

May 8th – 14th marks Mental Health Awareness Week.

When you say “mental health” to many, the first thing they think about is person who acts a little different to others, who does not conform to many social statuses, and is generally a bit of an outsider. Mental health is so much more than that, and many people simply do not understand the far-reaching effects mental health has on those who suffer with it, and also the ones who love, care, work or even simply know the affected party.

What can encompass mental health? Wow. Where do you start?

Anorexia. Hallucinations. Panic attacks. Tourettes. Work-life balance.

The list is comprehensive to say the least.

Hollywood hasn’t shied away from mental health in film, and many popular films over the years help spread awareness of mental health issues, the effect they have and the consequences. Yes, of course, Hollywood doesn’t always get it right, and it has to make subject matter entertaining to make money, but studios, cast and crew do try to inject mental health into movies where they can, and they do an important thing by doing this – spread the word and help the general public become aware.

I like Carmine Falcone’s quote in ‘Batman Begins’ to sum up this taboo:

“This is a world you’ll never understand. And you always fear what you don’t understand.”

Mental health is a world many will never understand, and because of that, they fear it. 

Let’s take a look at a snapshot of popular movies that have tackled mental health in some way and left an impact on audiences, created important discussion and spread awareness to help alleviate that lack of understanding.

AUTISMRain Man (1988) / The Imitation Game (2014) / Power Rangers (2017)

Autism is a growing disorder which is characterised by a lack of social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication and restricted or repetitive behaviour. Dustin Hoffman as Raymond in ‘Rain Man’ was the first big glimpse into Autism via Hollywood, and as there was little understanding or support at that time, it acted a double edged sword. “Rain Man” is the term people use for Autistic people because that’s what they expect – quirky people who make funny noises and remember everything. But, it made people take note and that was the start of what is now a growing understanding and study of Autism, even now in film. Things have come a long way and continue to do so.

DEMENTIA On Golden Pond (1981) / The Notebook (2004) / Remember (2015)

Dementia, bracketed with Alzheimer’s disease, causes a long term and gradual decrease in the ability to think for themselves, process emotion and affect their daily functioning. A heart-breaking issue, this lends itself to a strong emotional core that comes across in powerful films. It helps us understand how this can slowly take away a person, without us even knowing it until it’s too late. It shows how we can help them, how we can cope and what helps them remember moments thought long gone. ‘The Notebook’ does this to great effect.

DEPRESSIONInteriors (1978) / Cake (2014) / Inside Out (2015)

Depression encompasses many factors including low self-esteem, low energy, false beliefs and a general low mood. It is becoming increasingly common in today’s society, but one many who don’t understand can dismiss easily.  Film shows us how triggers can cause depression – major changes to lifestyle, medication, health or social issues can lead people experiencing depression. Jennifer Aniston in ‘Cake’ portrays this brilliantly, and even Pixar help touch upon the subject for young audiences in ‘Inside Out’.

EROTOMANIA Fatal Attraction (1987) / The Crush (1993)  / Enduring Love (2004)

A delusional disorder in which the suffer can easily believe another person is in love, or infatuated, with them. This lends itself to other areas such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. For effect, this is played to a more sinister side, creating thrillers and haunting stories told from a victim’s point of view, but with moments that help us understand why the suffer feels the way they do, which is often over-looked and ignored.

OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER Sleeping With The Enemy (1991) / The Aviator (2004) / Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

This disorder has people depend on routines, checking things repeatedly and trying to stay in control. Linked to anxiety and a risk of suicide, OCD can dominate a person’s day and life by their need to perform certain routines and have certain thoughts and processes in order to cope, linking back to an earlier trauma.

SUBSTANCE ABUSEPulp Fiction (1994) / Pure (2002) / Flight (2012)

Otherwise known as addiction or dependence, substance use disorder (SUD) can refer to any physical substance, but is primarily alcohol and drug related which affects the suffers physical and mental state, and affects the safety of them around others. Film continues to deliver powerful messages about the roads that lead to SUD and also the consequences if it isn’t worked on to be righted.

Agoraphobia. Eating disorders. Hypersexuality. Post-traumatic stress disorder. Suicide.

As said before, the list is too great to fully explore, but films for all ages, from ‘Finding Nemo’ to ‘Trainspotting’ have continued to help bring mental health to the big screen and for all generations to start to see and understand that this is NOT something to fear, but something to strive to help deal with and find support for the sufferers and their families and friends.

For more information on Mental Health, please visit this website: www.mentalhealth.org.uk

If you need someone to talk to, to listen or understand, then you are not going to be alone in finding that support.

Take some time out to discuss mental wellbeing with your friends and family if you feel there is need to. Encourage them, and yourself, to open up, to share and discuss, and most importantly, not to feel alone or judged by society.

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The Oscars 2015: Winners & Losers

What a night! What a long night! From this side of the pond, watching The Academy Awards live was hard work, but ultimately a satisfying and worthwhile experience. The 87th annual awards show was hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, but I have a feeling we may have witnessed his swansong appearance as the presenter of the show. Aside from a theatrical, energetic and rather funny opening gambit, Patrick Harris quickly sunk into an apparent depression, barely even cracking a smile (even at his own jokes).

On a positive note, we were treated to some truly great acceptance speeches, from Patricia Arquette’s rousing feminist speech, to Graham Moore’s emotionally charged display, culminating in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s modest show of gratitude. The highlight however, has to be John Legend and Common, with their powerful, moving rendition of their track ‘Glory’, which won the award for Best Song. The performance, swiftly followed by the award, drew tears and a standing ovation from the crowd, with the emotive connotations linking the song to the story of ‘Selma’ and Martin Luther King’s drive for racial equality.

All of the eight nominees in the Best Picture award managed to get their hands on at least one of the little, gold statuettes, but it was ‘Birdman’ who stole the show with wins in the major categories. ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’ swept the board for design-oriented categories, whilst ‘Whiplash’ also enjoyed three victories. Richard Linklater will probably be the most disappointed, with many fans taking to social media to vent their anger and disbelief at The Academy’s oversight.

Here’s how the night unfolded:

Lupita Nyongo takes to the stage to present the award for Actor In A Supporting Role. This category was pretty much sewn up weeks ago, by J K Simmons for his role in ‘Whiplash’ and there were no surprises this time.

A quick-fire double for ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ as they check in with the awards for Achievement In Costume Design, and Achievement In Hair & Make-Up. A lot of people saying ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ should have took the latter.

Nicole Kidman and Chiwetel Ejiofor present the award for Best Foreign Language Film to Polish flick ‘Ida’. Director Pawel Pawlikowski ignores the get-off-the-stage-now music and completes his rather long acceptance speech.

The award for Best Live Action Short goes to ‘The Phone Call’ whilst Best Documentary Short is given to ‘Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1’. More of those long acceptance speeches.

Sienna Miller and Captain America present the awards in the sound category. Sound Mixing goes to team ‘Whiplash’ and Sound Editing to ‘American Sniper’. I feel Sienna Miller may have rigged the votes on that one.

Last year’s winner of the Supporting Actor award, Jared Leto takes to the stage, head to toe in baby blue, to present the award for Actress In A Supporting Role. Another relatively predictable win as Patricia Arquette takes home the award, for her role in ‘Boyhood.

The award for Achievements In Visual Effects goes to ‘Interstellar’, rightly so. Disney’s ‘Feast’ scoops the award for Animated Short, whilst a stunning Zoe Saldana and Dwayne Johnson AKA The Rock present the Oscar for Animated Feature Film to ‘Big Hero 6’.

‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ makes it a hattrick of wins, taking the award for Achievements In Production Design. Swooping down to grab the award for Cinematography, with a strong indication that more are to follow, ‘Birdman’.

A big win for ‘Whiplash’, taking the award for Achievement In Film Editing, is preceded by the ever-emotional In Memoriam montage. A pair snubbed by The Academy this year, Jennifer Aniston and David Oyelowo step up to present the award for Documentary Feature to ‘Citizen Four’. This is all soon forgotten as John Legend and Common raise the roof with their performance of ‘Glory’, which takes the award for Best Song soon after. Common poetically describes Selma Bridge, “this bridge was built with hope, welded with compassion and elevated with love for all human beings”. A truly powerful performance and speech which is worth watching.

The last of the relatively minor categories, the award for Best Original Score goes to, you guessed it, ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’. Screenplay appreciation time, with ‘Birdman’ taking the award for Original Screenplay and ‘The Imitation Game’ writer, Graham Moore, recognised for his Adapted Screenplay.

Time for the big four. Richard Linklater took 12 years to create his epic ‘Boyhood’, but that counts for nothing apparently. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu steals the show again, taking the award for Best Director and claiming to be wearing Michael Keaton’s “tighty whiteys”.

No such surprises in the category of Best Actor In A Leading Role and Best Female In A Leading Role, with Eddie Redmayne and Julianne Moore picking up the awards we all knew they deserved. Last but by no means least, the big one, the award for Best Picture. Before the big night I had ‘Boyhood’ down to take this one, but as the night went on I think we all realised that it was, of course, going to be ‘Birdman’ and Inarritu who would scoop the number one prize.

Written by Jakob Lewis Barnes

Oscars 2015 Close Up: The Imitation Game

As we head into February, let’s get back on with the Oscar buzz. Next up in the spotlight is ‘The Imitation Game’ and we are halfway through the Best Picture nominations now. Directed by Morten Tyldum and starring Benedict Cumberbatch, this is the story of Alan Turing, the man who cracked the enigma code and ended World War II. Benedict Cumberbatch talks about the role here.