Mental Health Awareness Month: 9 Documentaries That Matter

Mental Health Awareness Month: 9 Documentaries That Matter

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and to join the cause, we’re highlighting a selection of powerful documentaries that deal with all kinds of expressions of mental illness and the struggles faced by affected families and individuals. They offer valuable insights and resources for folks impacted by these issues and raise awareness about the need for effective prevention, treatment and support programs. Because the more you know, the better equipped you can be to help others and yourself. 

‘Selena Gomez: My Mind and Me’

This candid and emotional documentary follows the life of pop star and actress Selena Gomez as she opens up about her mental health struggles, which include experiences with anxiety, depression, and other issues as well as the time she spent in a psychiatric facility. Throughout the film, Gomez emphasizes the importance of self-care and seeking help when needed, and encourages viewers to break down the stigma surrounding mental health issues. “Gomez has been open about her struggles with anxiety and bipolar depression, but her honesty about mental health has never been expressed as starkly” as in this powerful and relatable exploration of the challenges of living with mental illness.

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‘Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind’

Through interviews with family, friends and colleagues, this powerful documentary delves into the life and career of the late, great and beloved comedic actor Robin Williams. With deep insights into his personality quirks — as well as the impact he had on those around him — fans can follow along as the film examines Williams’ upbringing, rise to fame, struggles with addiction and mental health and eventual suicide. “Tinged with nostalgia and emotion,” CNN says the film “conveys the messy complexities of the man, while serving as an unabashed celebration of his work.”

‘Nadiya Hussain: Anxiety and Me’

Nadiya Hussain, winner of 2015’s ‘Great British Bake Off,’ suffers from intense anxiety — the subject of this honest, eye-opening documentary. Exploring how the disorder has impacted her life, career, relationships, and everyday activities, the film emphasizes the importance of breaking down the stigma associated with mental health issues and encourages viewers to seek help when they need it. A must-watch for anyone struggling with anxiety or seeking to better understand the condition, physical and psychological symptoms, potential triggers, and various treatment options are also discussed.

‘The Weight of Gold’

Featuring up close and personal interviews with several Olympic athletes, this documentary explores the mental health issues faced by those who seem to be at the top of their game. Because, after all, imagine the incomparable demands that come from a lifetime of training and wanting — no, needing — to win. Interviews with all-star swimmer Michael Phelps, snowboarder Shaun White, figure skater Gracie Gold, bobsledder Lolo Jones, ski racer Bode Miller and many others reveal the often-times crushing pressure that comes with becoming the best. “This documentary wants to show civilians that Olympians aren’t nearly as impervious as their otherworldly skill might convey,” according to Variety. “On that count, it succeeds.”

‘Shadow Voices: Finding Hope in Mental Illness’

This thought-provoking documentary tackles the stigma and misunderstandings surrounding mental health issues. Featuring interviews with individuals living with depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and various other mental illnesses and challenges, the film also includes conversations with mental health professionals who provide insights into the various treatment options available and the importance of empathy and understanding. Through these diverse perspectives, “Shadow Voices” offers a message of hope and provides valuable information for those living with mental health issues or wanting to learn more.

‘Boy Interrupted’

This heartbreaking documentary chronicles the life and tragic death of Evan Perry, a teenager struggling with bipolar disorder. Created by his parents, filmmakers Dana Perry and Hart Perry, the exploration features home movies and interviews with Evan’s family and friends as they attempt to make sense of his illness and eventual suicide. “Personal anguish here proves emotionally cathartic,” according to Slant Magazine, and the work remains a powerful reminder of the devastating impact that mental illness can have on individuals and their loved ones.


Directed by Lauren Greenfield, this documentary follows four young women, ages 15-30, who are getting treatment for anorexia and bulimia at a strict treatment facility in Florida. Through therapy, weigh-ins and meals, the women discuss the emotional and psychological issues tied to their body-image issues while struggling to fight the urge to lose more weight. According to Variety, this film succeeds in making “its case by neither exploiting its subjects nor soft-pedaling their plight.”

‘A Dangerous Son’

In this sensitive look at how parents and loved ones struggle from one family member’s mental illness, this documentary explores the challenges faced by children who have violent and aggressive tendencies. A powerful reminder of the importance of early intervention and support for families dealing with mental health issues, the film features interviews with parents, children and mental health professionals who discuss the complexities of diagnosis and treatment. The documentary won a Peabody Award “for its stark, wrenching, and relentlessly honest look at the struggles these parents face, and for urging change in the way we treat parents and the way our mental health system treats their children.”

‘Light in the Darkness: Living Well After Trauma’

A moving and inspiring look at the strength and resilience of survivors of trauma, this documentary sheds a nuanced and compassionate light on the different types of trauma that lead to PTSD as well as their impact on individuals and communities. Through interviews with survivors and mental health experts, the film offers practical insights and strategies for coping with trauma and moving towards healing and growth. A powerful reminder that with support and resources, it can be possible to overcome even the most difficult experiences.

Find many of these documentaries on DIRECTV as well as plenty other content that promotes mental health and wellbeing. 

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