five tv shows about mental health
Mental health is a super-complex (and varied) topic to cover in pop culture, but these five shows are doing a pretty ace job.
MY MAD FAT DIARY It’s 1996, Oasis is at the top of the charts, and Rae Earl is 16, 16 stone and “desperate for a shag” – at least, that’s how she describes herself. This nostalgia trip is a brutally funny portrayal of a teenage misfit struggling with anxiety, OCD and an eating disorder, plus all the usual hormone-driven problems teenagers face, like wanting to be eaten whole by their crush like “the goat in Jurassic Park”. Based on the real-life Rae Earl’s autobiography, My Mad Fat Diary is a world away from that Lifetime movie cautionary tale about teenage girls who develop eating disorders from reading too many glossy mags. It says ‘eff off’ to BS stereotypes and instead takes us into the headspace of a girl grappling with disordered thinking, and asks us to grapple alongside her.
BOJACK HORSEMAN BoJack Horseman (voiced by Will Arnett) is a former sitcom star turned disgruntled D-lister struggling with depression and alcoholism, and also being an arsehole. This existential satire follows BoJack as he attempts to get back into ‘Hollywoo’s’ good graces after a series of career-sabotaging and sometimes criminal mistakes. Developed during the #MeToo era, BoJack Horseman shows us why having a mental health condition doesn’t necessarily absolve someone of their bad behaviour – in fact, makes a case for accountability being a first step to recovery. Yes, this is a comedy about a cartoon horse-person, full of wacky hijinks and bad puns, but it’s also truly painful at times, which makes BoJack’s quest to do better all the more satisfying.
GIANTS Produced by Insecure’s Issa Rae, this drama about three black, American millennials struggling to find work, pay their rent and continue living in this garbage pit of a world is a modern-day masterwork in mental-health storytelling – the kind of hidden gem usually only found through word of mouth. Following long-time friends Malachi, Journee and Ade through their personal battles with sexuality, identity and manic depression, this is raw and relatable. Importantly, it doesn’t shy away from conversations about disadvantage and discrimination when it comes to mental health. There’s a serious lack of representation for black people and people of colour in mental-health stories on TV, which might be why this entire series is available online for free.
CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND If you’ve ever dreamt of quitting your job and following your ex across the country because you think getting back together with them will fix all your problems and finally make you happy, then you should probably see a therapist. That’s the premise of this musical-comedy starring Rachel Bloom as Rebecca Bunch, a lawyer who takes life lessons from rom-coms and musicals a bit too literally, to the detriment of her own mental health. We follow Rebecca’s journey to self-understanding through a catalogue of technically impressive but tongue-in-cheek songs, including the triumphant go-get-‘em solo “A Diagnosis” and the elaborate tap number “Anti-depressants Are So Not a Big Deal”. Amid the gags, there’s an obvious push to destigmatise mental-health conditions by showing that seeking help can be an act of love.
EVERYTHING’S GONNA BE OKAY In this follow-up to his award-winning comedy Please Like Me, Josh Thomas plays a young entomologist (bug scientist) named Nicholas who’s convinced his dying father he’s responsible enough to take care of his two teenage half-sisters: Genevieve, an artistic recluse, and Matilda, an ambitious social butterfly with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). (Refreshingly, Kayla Cromer, who plays Matilda, is on the autism spectrum in real life.) This comedy may open at a funeral, but it refuses to dwell on tragedy. Instead, we’re treated to sibling rivalries, awkward crushes, queer experimentation and Nicholas’s increasingly bizarre collection of giant bugs. All this spontaneity and chaos mirrors Matilda’s bold and disarming approach to life, giving us direct insight into what it’s like to be a girl with ASD, and challenging the stereotype that autism is somehow a defect.
This binge list comes straight from the pages of frankie 98. Head here to find your closest stockist, pick up a copy from our online store or subscribe from $59.50.