Television shows don’t always do a great job of portraying mental illnesses. A few particularly horrendous examples come to mind. Lately, though, mental health issues are being portrayed with increasing care. Take last week’s episode of This Is Us, which has gotten rave reviews from people with anxiety and panic disorders.
One of the show’s main characters, Randall, has always been portrayed as an anxious person, but last week’s episode drove that point home with a strikingly accurate panic attack. Viewers were impressed, not only with its accuracy and familiarity, but also with the compassionate way Randall’s panic was handled. Bustle explains why that’s so important.
Randall’s attack not only gave the show a chance to allow Sterling K. Brown to break fans’ hearts again, it also highlighted how important it is for an anxiety sufferer’s family and friends to know the signs of an attack and be there for their loved one. While medication and therapy can help manage anxiety disorders, there is no way to stop an attack once it is happening, and it can be alarming for a person to watch someone they love be in so much distress. Kevin dropped everything to be by his brother’s side because he recognized from Randall’s call that something wasn’t right. When he arrived at Randall’s office to find his brother having an attack, he offered comfort and support — which is exactly what Randall needed.
There is a stigma attached to all mental health issues, but when a show like This Is Us reveals even the person you think has everything in their life together can be quietly dealing with something like anxiety, it serves as a reminder anyone can have a mental health issue. It also opens up conversations between family and friends who may be suffering in silence for fear of being judged. When anxiety disorders are shown in a realistic light on TV, everyone benefits.
EW shared this recap of the event:
— Entertainment Weekly (@EW) February 17, 2017
Scripted television has been getting braver in its portrayal of people with mental health issues, and we’re all benefiting. This Is Us handles Randall’s anxiety in a fairly serious way, but shows like You’re The Worst, The Maria Bamford Show and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend have shown us that you don’t need to treat mental health seriously to treat it respectfully.
What’s your favorite portrayal of mental health on television? What’s the worst you remember? Let us know on Twitter.