Mental health

Favored Expressions of Madness in Entertainment


Dear Readers,

As the topic of mental health continues to take progressive leaps forward, there exists much retroactive speculation on the undiagnosed mental health conditions of the famous and deceased. Indeed, the great composers, painters, musicians, writers, and characters of art history are often associated with an enthusiasm of the psyche.

My favorite book ever written happens to be on this very topic. Touched with Fire by Kay Redfield Jamison. Jamison is an author and American clinical psychologist living with Bipolar Disorder herself. She uses her craft to advocate for others, and explore the relationship between the ill mind and creative genius. This book had a profound impact on me, keeping me company on late night’s when I felt most isolated by my own idiosyncrasies. It is so dripping with content that you will take something new away from each read. Read on for more of my favorite depictions of madness in American culture.



I most enjoyed Susanna Kaysen’s telling of Borderline Personality Disorder in Girl, Interrupted due to its unflinching honesty and value as a time piece. Naturally, the literary telling of her story is even more profound and bizarre than the best-selling blockbuster film. It speaks volumes to the mental health climate in American Culture within the confinements of the sixties, and prompted me to begin my own journey through therapy.


Silver Linings Playbook remains a controversial piece with mixed reviews. I, for one, happen to love this depiction of mental illness in cinema. Above all, I admire that more than one illness is conveyed in nothing shy of imperfect glory. Bradley Cooper displays a character with classic symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, and candidly demonstrates what it feels like for someone with this illness to be triggered by their environment. His love interest, played by Jennifer Lawrence, compassionately embodies Borderline Personality Disorder, while Robert DiNero offers a voice for Obsessive Compulsive and superstitious tendencies. This is one brave bold film, unafraid of exaggeration paired with empathy.


Keir Gilchrist beautifully embodies the anxious nervous breakdown associated with depression in this black comedy. I can deeply appreciate any portrayal of mental health that offers up a laugh without detracting from the validity of necessary intervention. Comedy serves as an excellent buffer between stigma and reality, revealing to those who may not always understand that we remain fundamentally the same.


A shining classic tale of autistic savantism and full-range emotional familial integration. If you haven’t seen or heard of this film, you now have some homework.


Ultimately my favorite movie and satirical novel, Fight Club offers a terribly clever exploration of psychology, insomnia, and a pervasive distaste for societal over-indulgence.


In this timeless film, John Hughes exposes the inventories of five adolescents within the confinements of our public institutions. Painfully honest with familiar anthems, The Breakfast Club holds a mirror to us all and reveals the all-too-forgotten trials of what it means to be young in America.

For more on this topic, the following article from Kevin Redmayne at features poetic portrayals of speculative BPD in Three Literary Characters with Borderline Personality Disorder. 

Discuss: What are your favorite mental health stories in entertainment?

**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at!**

For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide!

In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!

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