May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) states that 1 in 5 people will be affected by mental illness in their lifetime. Bipolar disorder affects approximately 5.7 million Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
And yet so many of us are afraid to talk about it, and we’re afraid to ask for help.
This is the ideal time to educate yourself and your loved ones about mental illness. Let’s raise awareness to fight the stigma those of us with mood disorders face. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. If we’re silent, it will remain in the shadows.
I’m a movie buff. It’s both my career and my hobby. So, in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I’ve compiled a list of films that educate and enlighten those who live with bipolar disorder, and those who care about us. Sit down with someone you love, microwave some popcorn, and watch one (or all!) of these movies together.
Ride the Tiger: A Guide Through The Bipolar Brain
This is an excellent recent documentary done by PBS. It covers medical advancements, and includes interviews with some very inspirational people like Terri Cheney, Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, Melody Moezzi and Patrick Kennedy.
The Secret Life Of The Manic Depressive
This is a poignant personal story from one of the BBC’s most well-loved comedians: Stephen Fry. He describes with sincere honesty the struggles he’s gone through, and how bipolar disorder has affected his life.
The Not So Secret Life Of The Manic Depressive, 10 Years On
The original documentary aired in 2006. The second installment in this series visits Stephen ten years later in 2016. He’s got new challenges and fresh insights, and he shares them with the enduring sense of humor he’s loved for worldwide.
Touched With Fire
Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby star in this fictional story about two people struggling with mental illness who meet in a psychiatric hospital and fall in love. I saw this in the theater and I have to admit, I cried. It was deeply moving and beautiful. It’s a powerful about how that life doesn’t always go as planned for those who live with mood disorders.
A Summer In The Cage
This documentary originally aired on The Sundance Channel. It’s Ben Selkow’s feature-length film chronicling his friend Sam’s battle with bipolar disorder. The movie follows Sam for seven years as he suffers delusional manic episodes, battles paralyzing depressions, and tries to escape the legacy of his bipolar father who committed suicide when Sam was eight years old. It features an interview with Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison.
This film is full of candid interviews with individuals living with bipolar disorder, as they share their personal stories. With the goal of eliminating stigma surrounding the illness, everyday people eloquently describe their struggles to achieve balance between manic euphoria and devastating depression.
I have to add 2 shoutouts that aren’t movies about bipolar disorder, but they do cover it beautifully:
What Happened, Miss Simone?
I’ve always loved Nina Simone. I never knew she struggled with bipolar disorder until I saw the documentary about her on Netflix. We learn about her life through historical footage and personal accounts from her daughter, who suffered abuse at the hands of her mother. Nina Simone battled an illness that broke through her talent, and because she was untreated, bipolar disorder wreaked havoc on her life. This movie about her experiences as she battled demons is painfully gorgeous to watch. If you’re not a fan, you will be by the time the end credits roll. Her spirit and her music will move you.
The Devil And Daniel Johnston
Daniel Johnson is an incredibly talented musician who’s been elevated to cult status. This movie is the story of his life, and his struggles. Most of his work consists of cassettes he recorded alone in his home, and his music is frequently cited for its “pure and childlike soul.” It’s hard to explain him, or the movie, without giving too much away. So just watch it, you won’t be disappointed!
Did I miss one? If there’s a movie about bipolar disorder I haven’t included, please share it in the comments!