Top 10 Netflix Shows About Mental Health You Haven’t Seen Yet

Netflix is full of brilliantly made shows and many focus on a wide variety of topics. Recently, mental health has been the center focus.
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In recent years, there’s been a big push for the end of the stigma around mental health. Many TV shows and movies on Netflix have tried to show different mental health issues in a better light - one that doesn't shame it but educates about it. There’s been several that have stuck out among the others to educate about mental health. 

Here are the top 10 Netflix shows that have gone above and beyond to show mental illness and educate about it in the process. 

1. The Queens Gambit

 This show has been smashing records left and right this past month. This show covers a great many topics, such as death, drug abuse, depression, love, feminism, alcoholism, and anxiety to name a few.

Beth Harmon is a highly respected chess player from Kentucky who learned her skills in the basement of the orphanage she grew up in. She deals with drug issues since arriving in the orphanage, being given tranquilizers since day one. She grows a dependency, learning she can visualize her games better, even overdosing before she turns 13. She ends up adopted but having that mother died a few years later. She becomes an alcoholic, going on benders and acting out.

This show makes everything so beautifully displayed, from her coping to her relapsing. It shows the true ups and downs of depression and addiction. This show is a great representation of genius and madness.

2. Maniac

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 This was an unsung hero on Netflix. This show explored a drug trial in a futuristic America. Emma Stone, Jonah Hill, and Sally Field star in this fantastic show about connections, depression, and living in a lonely world. They take the drugs and are submerged into a fictional world where the two main characters repeatedly meet up with one another while also facing their traumas.

It shows the power of drugs and how we live in a world where drugs are often seen as a solution before any other treatment. It’s a fantastic show with a great cast exploring the depths of the human psyche. 

3. Greys Anatomy

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 One of Netflix’s streaming staples and among Shonda Rhimes best, Greys Anatomy displays every issue under the sun. Often criticized for showcasing too many political issues, the show manages to bring many issues to light.

Sometimes, the illness isn't in the cases the doctors solve but in the main characters themselves. Meredith deals with PTSD from the shooting, Derek’s death, and her own scrap with death. Bailey deals with OCD. Hunt deals with PTSD from serving overseas. DeLuca battles with inherited bipolar disorder from his father. Jo deals with depression. One of its most iconic episodes shows all the female doctors and nurses assisting a woman who just encountered a sexual attack. Grey's Anatomy does a fantastic job of focusing on the struggles of the character while not making it overbearing.

4. Big Mouth

 Often referred to for its obnoxious satirical music, Big Mouth actually strives to focus on the different struggles of every teen going through puberty. They recently announced season 4 coming to Netflix on December 4th and the trailer features a new little monster - Tito the Anxiety Mosquito. Missy fights with the pesky little bug while Jessie is stuck with the Depression Kitty. Big Mouth shows, where a lot of struggles start and how middle school kind of sucks, but it changed many of us for the better. 

5. Umbrella Academy

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 The Umbrella Academy showed us family trauma in a whole new light. With catchy background music and an array of spectacularly niche characters, this show breaks barriers. All of the Hargreeves children suffer from rather traumatic childhoods - from losing a brother to being bought at birth. They all cope in different ways but none can be seen more than in Klaus. He’s haunted by the dead and constantly followed by his deceased brother Ben. He copes with liquor and drugs. Even with what their father did to them, they feel the need to impress him. 

6. Shameless

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 Shameless teaches many lessons about family values and the length of a dollar. It also shows how bipolar disorder is often passed from parent to child. Monica and Ian both struggle with manic highs and depressive lows. Monica runs off often after having an episode and refuses medication. They often can't afford the meds that keep him from making reckless decisions.

Shameless does a great job of displaying both mental illness and the struggles that often come with low-income households. The true story is that his family genuinely cares about his well being enough to make the choices necessary to keep him in a good place.  

7. American Horror Story

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 As one of the most popular anthology series of all time, American Horror Story reigns supreme in the stories it portrays. Many of the subplots are often based on real people or events. For example, in Coven, Madame Marie Leveau was actually viewed as a voodoo queen in New Orleans or in Freakshow, the museum they're trying to put the freaks in is based on Philadelphia's Mutter Museum.

There are astounding depictions of how unchecked mental health issues can affect a person. In Murder House, Violet attempts suicide. In Asylum, there are countless characters with varying mental health issues in an era where it was tragically stigmatized. This show isn't the type with a necessarily happy ending for the characters depicted, but nonetheless, the show is on its tenth season of keeping fans on their toes.  

8. Stranger Things

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 Anyone who saw the record-shattering show knows it's all-around fantastic. From the characters to the plot, the show explores a lot about mental health. One of the biggest is Will struggling with PTSD. One may argue that his PTSD is more of The Upside Down leaking into the real world, but none-the-less the poor kid was definitely traumatized. You also watch his mom deal with the same issues - she doesn't sleep well, she smokes to ease her anxiety, and she constantly fears her son going missing again. 

9. Spinning Out

 This one-season show follows a figure skater as she struggles to cope with both bipolar disorder and PTSD. Following an injury, she fears the ice and faces the pressure of her family and coaches to return to where she was before her fall. It’s a fantastic example of how pressure can drive some to madness.

10. To the Bone

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 Although not a show, To the Bone deals with eating disorders. The Netflix original follows Ellen as she deals with anorexia in a multitude of ways. She counts calories, does countless sit-ups, and barely eats. You watch her struggle and even end up in the hospital and you see the strain it puts on her family. In the end, she receives the treatment she needs but she still struggles with it. It’s not like her disordered eating or body dysmorphia just disappears, but at least she’s getting therapy. 

Netflix has many great films and movies with all sorts of educational value. The shows listed above are some of the more in-depth ones that deal with hard topics. However hard they may be, they definitely need to be seen and talked about. Be advised, they do deal with some pretty real and often hard to deal with topics, so if you're sensitive to that type of thing, proceed with caution. 

Courtney is a junior at Montclair State University and is from a small town in Pennsylvania. She loves fashion, reading, art, and history.

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