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5 Documentaries About Mental Illness

U.S. Congressman Tim Murphy declared May as Mental Health Awareness Month in 2013. According to the press release from his office, the Surgeon General estimated that about 20 percent of Americans had a treatable form of mental illness. It is a prevalent enough problem today that many documentaries have been made about mental illnesses. These are the top five to watch.

1. Of Two Minds

This documentary highlights the struggles and successes of several people who are living with bipolar disorder. For psychology students, the documentary is especially valuable because of the way it puts a human face on a common but perplexing mental illness. Seeing personal accounts puts a clearer light on the illness to help viewers better understand what they read in books about it. Through several interviews, the documentary shows how bipolar disorder affects people with feelings ranging from grandiosity and euphoria to pain and despair. It also shows how they see different aspects of life based on their extreme feelings.

2. OC87: The Obsessive Compulsive, Major Depression, Bipolar, Asperger's Movie

One of the complexities psychologists will encounter is multiple mental disorders. This documentary provides a good example of how a person can have multiple disorders and how the aspects of each disorder mixes with the other and interferes with a victim's life. OC87 is a documentary about Bud Clayman and how mental illness kept him from pursuing his dreams of being a filmmaker immediately after college. The story is inspiring and shows how people can still use their strengths to work toward their goals.

3. Back From The Edge

With its information about how to treat borderline personality disorder, this documentary gives a broad view of BPD. Since it is fairly new among psychiatric illness diagnoses, anyone who is planning to become a psychologist can benefit from seeing how the symptoms affect people and their families. Psychosis, mood swings, relationship problems, poor emotion management and impulsive behavior are just a few of the effects they live with. The documentary also shows how BPD occurs simultaneously with other mental disorders such as bipolar disorder, depression and substance abuse.

4. How Mad Are You?

In this documentary, the viewer gets to play the role of the psychologist. The documentary is set up as a project where 10 volunteers are asked to complete a series of challenges ranging from light and fun to heavy and revolting. However, half of the participants do not have a mental illness. The other five have a diagnosed mental illness. As viewers watch the participants execute the challenges, they must decide who the ones with illnesses are. This is a great practice exercise for psychology students to pay attention closely and look for signs of mental illnesses in the participants.

5. Depression: Out Of The Shadows

Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses, and it can afflict anyone. This documentary shows the effects of it and the struggles it causes for several different people. See depression from the view of a former gang member, a young mother, a teen, a powerful CEO, a writer and a young person trying to escape an inner-city lifestyle in this informative documentary. The documentary is eye-opening for any psychology student or psychologist.

Related Resource: The 50 Best Online Schools for a Graduate Degree in Counseling 2015

There are several other good documentaries for students to watch about mental illnesses. They help give a realistic and personalized view of how illnesses affect people. However, reading supplemental textbook information is important. The first step toward having access to written information is finding the right psychology degree program.