Oh, the struggles of young adulthood: starting college, finding a good job, moving out of home, getting into relationships. They’re serious enough to make us miss early teenage problems such as acne and schoolgirl crushes. Then, of course, some things may come at any time, and may not leave so quickly: mental health issues.
Society often linked post-traumatic stress disorder to military veterans who had seen the atrocities of war and its gruesome collateral damage. While this is true, post-traumatic stress disorder is not exclusive to military personnel. In fact, it can affect anyone who had encountered a terrifying event. Also, the experience of terror is a subjective incident significant to the person that’s why post-traumatic stress disorder is highly probable for war veterans but not all of them develop such condition. According to Colleen Cira, PsyD., a psychologist “PTSD comes from some type of traumatic event. ”Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is defined as a mental health condition usually terrifying event through witnessing or experiencing the situation. Symptoms will include the following: severe anxiety, nightmares, flashbacks, and uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
The statistics show that PTSD can happen to anyone. It is common. Studies show that 60 percent of men and 50 percent of women had experienced at least one trauma in their lives. Women are likely to encounter child sexual abuse and sexual assault while men will most likely experience accidents, physical assault, disaster, combat or witnessing of death or injury. Whether you are dealing with PTSD or you know someone who is suffering from this disorder, it is wise to take note that having PTSD is not a sign of weakness. Moreover, some significant factors will increase the chances of developing PTSD. Examples of these are jobs, mental health problems, lack of support system, substances abuse and early childhood trauma.
“It identifies and addresses traumatic experiences that have overwhelmed the brain’s natural coping capacity, and, as a result, have created traumatic symptoms, such as flashbacks or anxiety, or harmful coping strategies, such as isolating behavior and self-medication with alcohol or drugs.” –Dr. Romas Buivydas, PhD, LMHC
Post-traumatic stress disorder is the subject of literature and movies. Many movies are dedicated to the disorder. Some films on PTSD show the reality of the disorder while others sensationalized the situation to make it more interesting for the audience. PTSD films started as early as the 1970s with the release of the following movies:
The Deer Hunter
It is a heart-wrenching movie about four friends from a small town in Pennsylvania who decided to enlist and fight in the Vietnam War. Three of the main protagonist was captured and tortured in the prisoners of war camp. It is a story of how they thrived and survived a dangerous environment as well as their lives after their escape. This is an award-winning movie, which garnered five Academy Awards. The cast is also stellar with Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, and Christopher Walken.
The plot of the story started in California with Bob Hyde as the main character. He is a captain in the US Marine Corps and was deployed in Vietnam. His wife was left behind and began to volunteer at the local veterans hospital where she met a paraplegic soldier from Vietnam. The paraplegic soldier and Mr. Hyde’s wife develop a friendship that resulted in the transformation of her views about the war. By the time her husband returns, wounded and suffering from PTSD. The soldier from the hospital and Mrs. Hyde is already having an affair.
Born on the Fourth of July
The film was directed and co-written by Oliver Stone. The story follows the life of Ron Kovic, a US marine sergeant who served two tours in Vietnam. On the first one, he came home wounded; however, on the second tour, he went back home paralyzed from the chest down. The movie showcased his struggle with the changes in him physically, emotionally and mentally as well as on how to transition back into regular life. He had difficulty connecting with his family and friends and showed signs of PTSD. He also turned to vices for relief; later in his life, he found meaning in joining a group of Vietnam Veterans against the war.
“PTSD is a response to trauma that can make individuals feel scared, hopeless, or horrified for at least one month following the trauma.” –Rob Cole, LMHC
More like, 13 reasons why not.
Before you go any further, this article contains discussions that are related to self-harm, suicide, and sexual assault.
“13 Reasons Why”, a movie about a teenager who committed suicide and has elaborated 13 reasons why she did it, has become a rather controversial and surprisingly popular show on Netflix. While its ambitions of re-structuring cultural and social sensitivity specifically on matters concerning sexual assault and harassment, bullying, and mental disorder, it somehow has managed to do so but in a problematic, non-conforming manner. As John M. Grohol, Psy.D. explains, “Sexual abuse can take many forms, but it always includes a component of unwanted sexual activity forced on the victim. That activity can, and most often does, involve direct contact with the victim, but may also be forcing the victim to watch the perpetrator engage in a sexual activity on their own, or inappropriately show their genitals.”
When people think of musical genius, one of the most common answers is Ludwig Van Beethoven. Up to this day, his compositions live on and continue to be played. He is also one of the most famous and powerful composers of all time. People might not precisely identify the songs regarding its details but rest assured that when they hear it, they would be amazed that it was Beethoven who composed the symphony. He showed musical inclinations as a child and was taught by his father Johann Van Beethoven and Christian Gottlob Neefe who was also a composer and conductor. While many considered him a musical genius, some experts believe that Ludwig Van Beethoven suffered from bipolar disorder as well as substance abuse from alcoholic beverages later on in his life.
The world has a fascination for masterpieces, arts, and creativity; however, there is an association between mental illness and creativity. Oftentimes, the artists and musicians have an unusual creative process. Some thrive in the use of substances to fuel their minds with exciting ideas and out of this world output.
For binge-watchers out there who are in dire need of mental health treatment, here’s a treat for you: movie therapy.
You read it right. Movie therapy also known as cinema or film therapy is a type of mental health treatment modality that allows its audience to seek self-awareness and positive life alterations through watching different media-related contents. As Birgit Wolz, PhD., MFT explains it, “Cinema therapy can be a powerful catalyst for healing and growth for anybody who is open to learning how movies affect us and to watching certain films with conscious awareness. Cinema therapy allows us to use the effect of imagery, plot, music, etc. in films on our psyche for insight, inspiration, emotional release or relief and natural change.” Therapists believe that movie therapy does have a series of psychological health benefits, assuming that watching a film enables examination of stressors and issues in the relationship, work, and life more personal, palatable and relevant.
Without further hubbub, here are some of the reasons why movie therapy is redefining the era of mental health treatments.
Movie Therapy Complements Other Psychotherapies
To say that movie therapy alone can relieve a person of his or her misery is far-reaching. In certain circumstances, depending on the illness of the person, primary psychological treatments are often combined with another type of therapeutic modality to make it more effective.
More so, therapists will adequately assess their patient’s condition first before opting for movie therapy as the primary treatment modality. This sense of productivity and awareness can aid in the progression of conventional counseling sessions.
Movie Therapy Is A Self-Induced Intervention
People watch movies or television shows mainly for enjoyment or as a form of pastime. But personally, people choose specific movie genres that they relate to especially those that reflect their aspirations, situations, and struggles. And the good news is, this content is currently available on a lot of platforms and devices that can easily be accessed and be rendered by Internet streaming, free library, or rental kiosks. You don’t have to look that far.
Aside from that, you don’t have to wait for the next psychotherapy session to gain some clarity and insight on your situation. “The idea is to choose movies with themes that mirror your current problem or situation. For example, if you or a loved has a substance abuse problem, he suggests Clean and Sober or When a Man Loves a Woman, or if you are coping with the loss — or serious illness — of a loved one, he may suggest Steel Magnolias or Beaches.” Gary Solomon, Ph.D., MPH, MSW said. There are tons of movie characters that are carrying similar burdens that you may find a connection with. Though your therapist will undoubtedly have a couple of film suggestions regarding your condition, you still can freely choose which shows resonate with you and learn from their challenges while taking notes of the resolutions.
Movie Therapy Facilitates Mental and Physical Breakthroughs
According to Shainna Ali Ph.D., LMHC, “A good movie prompts us to think. Aspects such as gaps in time and underdeveloped characters could be the foundation for film critique, or opportunities for your own truth.” Discovering the thoughts and emotions that you never knew existed is one of the goals of movie therapy. There are certain feelings that you have repressed or ignored for so long that when elaborately portrayed in a movie, create a healing process by opening doors to the subjugated psyche. After seeing yourself and your life played by the protagonist, sentiments that you’ve tried to subdue will resurface and can freely cross the unbearable threshold.
Movie therapy helps people realize that emotions must be felt and expressed rather than be restrained for all eternity. Sometimes, people who do not cry over death or loss will find themselves bawling their eyes out over Marley and Me.
Movie Therapy Offers Impassioned Expression
In a chaotic, stressful world, watching movies is a form of escapism – to distract oneself from the disturbing reality that one currently faces. Being mentally and emotionally engaged in your chosen film for the sake of getting your mind off of negativity is psychologically therapeutic. Even if it’s only for a limited moment, the time provided to set your mind at ease and be relaxed is soothing and rejuvenating to have you re-engage with real-life events.
With everything that’s going on in the world today, people are becoming less and less expressive of their thoughts and feelings and end up bottling up their emotions. And because not a lot of people are comfortable with the idea of opening up to some stranger, movie therapy is ideal for exploring psychological problems and eventually finding resolve in the privacy of one’s home.
Any type of mental health disorder can sometimes be debilitating or isolating. However, there are various movies out there which capture the realities of these illnesses. If you are battling the blues of depression, watching a film you can relate to might provide a therapeutic distraction. Here are the top movies which can help you get through the hard times of depression.
Experts believe that people who are the happiest on the outside are empty on the inside. Anomalisa shows the story of Michael Stone, a famous author of motivational books tackling corporate efficiency and reliable customer support. Despite helping people live happier lives, Stone was proven to be clinically depressed. He felt alienated from the world and angry with himself for bearing all of these negative emotions.
“Loneliness is an epidemic, We’re the most socially connected society, yet so many people experience extreme loneliness.” psychologist Amy Sullivan, PsyD. said. The movie was successful in demonstrating the existential difficulties of an individual living with depression.
Inside Out (2015)
Inside Out is an animated movie which tackles how a person’s emotions work. According to its most loyal viewers, this movie lifted them since it made them laugh and cry at the same time. It also showed the importance of having both sadness and joy in their lives.
Cake is a movie starring Jennifer Aniston. Here, her main character, Claire, struggled with depression and anxiety after losing her son in a vehicular accident. Due to this traumatic experience, she also developed chronic pain. The bulk of the story revolved around her grief and hopelessness in her recovery process. It supports Ben Martin, Psy.D. statement when he says, “A stressful change in life patterns can trigger a depressive episode. Such stressful events may include a serious loss, a difficult relationship, trauma, or financial problems.”
Interiors spoke volumes when it comes to showing the reality of depression. The film did not only shed light on the effects of mental illnesses to the patients, but it also tackled how mental illness affects the people around them.
In the movie, the character of the mother was suffering from dementia and depression. On the other hand, the character of the father developed a severe and undeserved resentment towards his wife. He felt that she was only a burden to their family in her current state. Upon knowing this, the mother attempted to commit suicide, and the unhealthy cycle of resentment and sadness dragged on until it affected their daughter.
Interiors is an honest, eye-opening, and authentic look at how seriously and sensitively we should treat depression.
The Hours (2002)
The Hours depicted three women from three different areas, with all of them suffering from depression. Other movies stress on traumatic events being the primary cause of acquiring this mental health disorder. However, this movie shows that people who are loved and cared for can also feel out of control.
The film also went through the rebuilding phase in the lives of these people. What makes this movie stand out is its ability to show a non-traditional view of depression and mental illness.
Even up to now, there is still a lot of false information and negative stigma on mental health. Hence, it is critical for movies like this to bring awareness about this sensitive topic to their viewers. “Depression is more than an emotion or a state of mind, it is really a process. It is a combination of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.” Robert Allison, MA, LPC said.
There are very few hobbies capable of soothing the mind and satisfying the soul. Baking belongs to the handful. After all, there’s nothing quite like coming home to the scent of coffee cake or the sight of a plateful of freshly baked cookies.
Culinary Arts Therapy
Culinary art therapy, often referred to as CAT, uses cooking as a means of therapeutic expression. It serves as an outlet for individuals who need an emotional outlet. As a meticulous form of preparation, baking requires immense concentration. As such, the nature of the focused activity helps in the redirection of thoughts—a subconscious form of therapy.
In a recent study, researchers have used a combination of CAT and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help those dealing with grief. The results of the research were positive and suggested CAT can help limit the complications which come with loss.
Baking can be a profoundly personal experience. Historically, women have been the designated domestic goddesses of the household, with the kitchen covering most of their domain. Over time, however, the culinary arts has grown to be more inclusive and all-encompassing. Cooking—and baking—has become more than a chore. Passion fuels baking. For some, it’s become a livelihood; for others, a form of empowerment. In some cases, baking has become a way to de-stress. Remember, “Everyone handles positive and negative stress differently. And yes, for some, positive stress can lead to a negative response to stress, depending on the situation.” says Jessica Harris, LCPC, LPC.
Baking can be advantageous for improving emotional health and has been known to help people deal with their depression or anxiety. “The physical act of baking,” according to Julia Ponsonby, author of The Art of Mindful Baking, “the way that you knead bread, for example, takes your mind out of the intellectual and connects you to your body.”
Benefits Of Baking
“Cooking helps mental health in that it can be a creative outlet. It’s a way to channel energy, can be used as a distraction, help build mastery in a skill, and a way to express emotions through a different medium.” Counselor Nicole Lambert said. Same as baking which provides a sense of relief. It channels all the negative thoughts and energy and transforms it into positive output. Overall, baking has several benefits we’ve listed below:
- Provides an outlet for self-expression. Baking allows you to push your limits and explore uncharted territories. Much like writing, painting, or music, it opens up your mind to new things and endless possibilities—in terms of recipes, decorations, you name it!
- Improves singular focus. Baking is like science. The process requires strict adherence to the recipe, thus honing one’s diligence. Its repetitive actions and feelings of being in control help you keep calm. On the other hand, working through each step of the recipe enables you to tune out the anxious thoughts. “For someone who battles negative thoughts, worries, and is constantly bombarded with doubt, fear, shame, cooking can be a healthy outlet to bring peace and serenity into their headspace.” Justyna Wawrzonek, LCSW, LADC, said.
- Sense of accomplishment. Think of it as a task or project, and the end product is a meal. Even if the outcome doesn’t taste as good as you expect, consider it a win. Knowing you began and completed the process all on your own is a perfect example of you working towards and attaining a goal.
4. Calming effect of the smell. The scent of freshly baked goods provides the same kind of satisfaction aromatherapy does.
5. Sense of self and others. Baking for both yourself and the people around you is a form of mindfulness. It creates opportunities to interact and spend time with others. It’s a cultural norm to give food as a sign of welcome to the neighborhood. You may also offer baked goods as a token of appreciation or a form of condolence.
What are you waiting for? Grab your bowl and apron. Ready, get set, whisk!
The use of creative techniques such as painting, drawing, collage, sketching, doodling, and coloring is the highlight of art therapy. It is slowly becoming a trend nowadays because everyone who engages in it can express their emotions fully and freely through the use of art materials.
AThe concept of art therapy came from the idea that creative expression will make way for better mental health. Unleashing creativity can help people explore their emotions, boost their self-confidence, develop self-awareness, and improve their social skills.
Art therapy’s benefits know no age. Children, teenagers, and even adults can take it as a hobby whenever they wish to. Children suffering from social problems and learning disabilities would often resort to this creative therapy. It is also best recommended for people and adults experiencing severe stress or mental health issues. Art therapy is one of the best healing techniques, especially for those who have experienced traumatic events in their life.
Here are the things that you need to prepare to start art therapy.
This category includes mostly the writing and cutting supplies you need for the kind of art you are going to do. Some of these dry supplies also include crayons, markers, pens, pencils, stencils, stamps, drawing pads, and notebooks. “Art Therapy utilizes the use of art materials and the creative process to help clients heal & help them with physical, mental, spiritual and emotional benefits.” Elena Lamaak, MA, LMHC explains. Experiment with the type and brands of drawing or writing supplies that you are most comfortable with.
Children who use art therapy mostly like to have jumbo crayons with an extensive color range, clays, markers, and lots of bond papers. Nowadays, coloring books are popular among adults. All they have to buy are their choice of coloring book and a set of crayons or coloring pencils.
If you are more into painting, then acrylic paints and watercolor sets are mostly in your list. Most art stores have different brands of wet supplies depending on their prices and types. Mostly, they would also offer beginner sets or kits complete with different brushes and mixing stuff. There are also washable painting kits which are suitable for children.
Bags Or Kits For Your Supplies
Do not let missing crayons or pieces of your art materials add to your stress and anxiety. More often than not, patients grow fond of their art supplies instead of their therapist-provided stuff. It would be better if you have your bag or briefcase for your materials. Check the stores for a carry-bag that would fit all your stuff. It would be much better if they have their designated pockets.
Repository Of Your Artworks
Your artworks are not for nothing. After you have done a piece, put them properly in a frame or a bag. Preserve them because they are the window to your emotions. Your art therapist will surely base their assessment on your works.
“It’s important to underscore here the importance of monitoring your mental health and knowing how different medications and lifestyle changes can impact your mental health,” says Julia Hogan, LCPC. Enlisting the help of an art therapist will help boost your confidence and treat any underlying mental health illness you may have. Art therapists know the fundamentals and theories of this technique. They will provide activities and techniques designed just for you after you tell them your concerns, problems, and mental health condition. Before you even know it, your mental health has become better through this therapy.
“Therapy doesn’t have to be talk-based; there are some modalities, like music therapy and art therapy, that can help you get those in tune with those emotions without having to cough them up verbally.” Hannah Goodman, LMHC
Even with their creative minds, moviemakers have their fair share of struggles and problems. Most of the time, it results in films that relay their genuine emotions. Consequently, you find these movies as a haven because it enables you to express the feelings you have found difficult to express and release.
Films provoke different kinds of emotions. Some can make you sad, happy, thrilled, or upset. According to Birgit Wolz, a psychotherapist who also facilitates the Cinema Therapy group, watching movies can help heal and provide growth to anybody who seeks emotional release, relief, and natural change. Birgit Wolz, PhD., MFT said “Cinema therapy can be a powerful catalyst for healing and growth for anybody who is open to learning how movies affect us and to watching certain films with conscious awareness. Cinema therapy allows us to use the effect of imagery, plot, music, etc. in films on our psyche for insight, inspiration, emotional release or relief and natural change.”
Benefits Of Watching Films
If you have been having a hard time letting your tears out, a sad movie can help. As an alternative, it can also make you feel better once you realize the characters have more significant problems than you do. A triumphant film can be a mood booster after a challenging or tiring day. A scary movie can give you an adrenaline rush whenever you are feeling down.
A good movie, whatever genre it falls under, can help you release bottled-up emotions. Such as Dr. Mathias Clasen said “Exposure to horror films can be gratifying when the negative emotions caused by the film are manageable. Moreover, there’s psychological distance when we watch a horror film. We know it’s not real—or at least, some parts of our brain know it isn’t real. Other parts—ancient structures located in the limbic system—respond as though it were real.”
People deal with problems all the time. For some, the world around them seems to be crumbling down. Watching a movie helps people immerse themselves in another world where things are not complicated. For two hours, they can enjoy without thinking about their problems.
Escapism can you help you in a lot of ways. But keep in mind that, ultimately, you will still have to fix your problems rather than escaping from it.
Distraction goes hand in hand with escapism. Whenever a person feels depressed or anxious, one of the usual things they do is get away from their emotions. Watching a movie can help them do that. It helps them focus on other things which relax their minds even just for a while.
Movies are inspiring. You can learn a lot of morals and lessons in a film. It may sound a bit silly, but you would be surprised by how a movie can inspire and move you. Movies with great plots can help you find motivation, be a better person, or look at life with high hopes.
A biographical or historical movie often gives us a glimpse of how life can be for others. You get to look at life from a different perspective. “The difference in opinions are projections of our own perspectives. Some people may experience triggers pertaining to their lived experiences, while others may not. Some people may view the film as negatively depicting health disparities, while some may point to scenes that highlight positive portrayals.” Shainna Ali Ph.D., LMHC explains.
There’s no doubt that the different views and aspects in life we see in movies can change our outlook in life. A good story engages a person’s curiosity, emotions, and imagination, which makes us more creative and innovative.
At the same time, it makes us appreciate the art of making movies. It includes cinematography, production, and how the actors can convey emotions.
Inspirational Movies To Watch For Life Lessons And Mental Health Awareness
- The Intern (2015)
- Forrest Gump (1994)
- The Bucket List (2007)
- Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
- Inside Out (2015)
- Miracle in Cell No. 7 (2013)
- Every Child is Special (2007)
- Dead Poets Society (1989)
- A Beautiful Mind (2001)
- Good Will Hunting (1997)
No matter how you’re feeling right now, there’s a movie that can help you express it. We hope they inspire you to love and take care of yourself. Enjoy!