With a brand new baby, I haven’t had much time for blogging.
But I’ve watched a lot of excellent TV. In particular, portrayals of mental health problems have been getting better and better.
Here are my top 3 of 2017.
1) Borderline Personality Disorder in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, despite it’s shocktastic title, is a musical comedy about a lawyer who moves from New York to California to chase down a man. She’s also struggling with her mental health, particularly as this manifests in her relationships.
In episode 6 of Season 3, Rebecca is given a new diagnosis (and sings about it, naturally). This is the culmination of a dark arc in the show where Rebecca loses everything and everyone, before taking an overdose on her flight home.
The diagnosis is Borderline Personality Disorder (also known as Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder). At first, Rebecca resists this label after reading about it on the internet, but then comes to understand how it might explain her feelings and actions.
As a psychiatrist, it was so refreshing to see this condition dealt with in a realistic way (my heart gave a little cheer when her doctor said that medication would not be the main focus). I hope they continue to explore it sensitively – and with more singing, of course.
2) Post-traumatic stress disorder in Star Trek: Discovery
The launch of a new Star Trek series is a science fiction event to be celebrated, but particularly when Star Trek: Discovery has this mixture of military and exploration storylines and a wonderfully diverse cast.
The show also deals with trauma in war in a nuanced way. While most of the characters undergo trauma, it’s the responses of Captain Gabriel Lorca and Lieutenant Ash Tyler that are most interesting – and might include post-traumatic stress disorder.
Lorca experiences emotional blunting and increased risk-taking as a result of the loss of his crew. His response is noted by his superior officer, psychiatrist, and lover Vice Admiral Cornwell – a combination I cannot recommend).
Tyler appears to be Doing Fine, but encountering his torturer triggers an episode of flashbacks during a mission. (If you ever want to know why people want “trigger warnings”? That’s why.) He also brings a powerful portrayal of a male survivor of sexual assault, including the associated guilt about what he did to survive as a prisoner of war.
3) Anxiety in The Good Place
This perky sitcom about the afterlife leads to deep thinky-thoughts about the nature of good and evil, our purpose in life, and the existence of frozen yoghurt.
The end of Season 1 brought the realisation that Chidi’s anxiety is being deliberately provoked by the custodians of their neighbourhood. This entailed asking him to keep secrets and make decisions, two things that gave him severe physical symptoms of anxiety.
Season 2 continues to play with this theme, but Chidi’s response begins to alter. He starts to make decisions, even if he does second-guess them. He also learns how to be present for people he cares about, despite his natural drive to panic.
Honourable mention: BoJack Horseman
Probably the only reason this dark comedy didn’t make the cut is that I have not watched Season 4. However, even the first three seasons and my husband’s assurances hold true, this show has one of the most thought-provoking depictions of chronic depression and familial trauma on TV right now.
Here’s to more sensitive and accurate portrayals in 2018!