Stream These Four Great Films to Celebrate Mental Health Awareness

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and FIELD OF STREAMS is here with some streaming recommendations

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As we eagerly await the fun energy that May and the coming summer months following a year of essentially not having one, we here at Field of Streams are taking the time to acknowledge Mental Health Awareness Month. The stigma of mental illness has been one of the hardest to break down in society, despite the advances in treatment and in the public figures who have stepped forward as examples of how to live with such conditions. One of the biggest champions in the fight against mental illness has been former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, who became involved with the cause during President Carter’s bid for Governor in 1971 and carried it over to the White House. This year, Mrs. Carter celebrates 50 years of service towards mental health awareness with a list of accomplishments that includes a thriving research program at The Carter Center and the establishment of a fellowship for journalists specializing in mental health.

Despite the strides made, a stigma still exists towards those suffering from mental illness. A combination of fear, confusion and a general lack of understanding has always contributed to the public perception of mental illness even as advances in the field continue to be made. As always, education remains the best tool the cause has and through both that and the never ending research taking place, the fight for mental health remains far from over.

In honor of mental health awareness month, here are a collection of streaming titles which highlight the different sides of mental illness through various time periods, all of which tell stories that are both gripping and honest.

GIRL, INTERRUPTED (Hulu, Sling TV, Starz, and Prime)

The first thing anyone remembers when they think of this late-90s drama, is the way it cemented Angelina Jolie as a major screen presence through her still-captivating, Oscar-winning work. However in the rush to praise Jolie’s star-making turn, many overlooked the equally compelling performance by star Winona Ryder. Based on the true story, Ryder plays Susanna Kaysen, a young woman who signs herself into an institution in 1968 following a suicide attempt. Once there, she begins to explore the different layers to her mind thanks to the women she meets inside. Although the film became the fashionable movie to watch in late 1999, Girl, Interrupted is a solid drama in its own right. Ryder charts Susanna’s journey of mental instability in a way which feels honest while the movie itself gives a credible glimpse into different forms of mental illness and the way they were treated during that time. So authentic is Girl, Interrupted’s take on its subject, that it has since become part of med school curriculums.

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (Hulu, Fubo, Prime, and Showtime)

This may have been one of the major Oscar players during awards season back in 2012 that was also embraced by the public, but this adaptation of the bestselling novel is an upfront and well-made look at the road to recovery. Newly released after a stint in a mental hospital following a nervous breakdown, Pat Solatono (Bradley Cooper) intends on getting his life back together and reconciling with his ex-wife. However an introduction to a grieving, sharp-tongued widow (Jennifer Lawrence) changes everything. The beauty of a film like Silver Linings Playbook is the way it takes the subject of mental illness and makes it understandable to those who have always held certain perceptions about it. At the same time, director David O’Russell ensures his film never talks down to its audience by making sure there are no false notes within it. While most films detailing mental illness are about the diagnosis and treatment, Silver Linings Playbook is about the journey back from the prison of a damaged mind and the life that’s waiting on the outside.

FRANKIE & ALICE (Hulu, Epix Now, Sling TV, Prime, and Philo)

Not too many people saw Frankie & Alice when they were meant to. The film was slated for a late 2010 release until wide distribution fell through at the last minute, postponing its bow for another four years. The move resulted in virtually no one seeing Halle Berry in a career best performance as a woman battling multiple personalities in this retelling of a true story set in the 1970s. Berry is great as Frankie, a go-go dancer struggling to understand just what is happening to her as she suffers through what would later be described as multiple personality disorder. The film offers up plenty of showy, actress-y moments that allow Berry to display her range (the moments when the character believes she’s a white woman from the old south are mesmerizing), but Frankie & Alice is at its strongest when it tries to get to the root of what’s going on inside our heroine’s head and why the different voices are holding her captive.

JACOB’S LADDER (Hulu, HBO Max, and Prime)

A film whose reputation and importance has only grown over time, Adrian Lyne’s masterpiece about PTSD remains one of the most transformative films of the 90s. Tim Robbins gives his best as Jacob, a former Vietnam veteran turned New York postal worker suffering from PTSD who begins to be plagued by horrific visions. Lyne and screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin scatter enough iconic imagery throughout the film to make sure Jacob’s Ladder earns its horror classification, especially in the scene where Jacob sees a reptilian creature overtake his girlfriend (Elizabeth Pena) while on the dance floor. But the film’s core aim is to acknowledge the effects of PTSD and the mental horrors those who suffer from it endure on a daily basis. It’s hard to imagine a more stark and telling illustration of the disease than the movie’s blurring of reality and fantasy brought on by the kind of trauma which has come to define an entire generation.

Click here for more information about The Carter Center’s mental health program.

Click here for more information on the National Alliance for Mental Illness.

There are countless services to explore and great things to watch on all of them. Which ones did we miss that you would suggest to us? Tell us what we’re missing out on or what new services we should check out by leaving a comment below or emailing us.

Till next week, stream on, stream away.

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