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Underrated Movies that show Mental Health Awareness

The fictional characters that tacked serious issues

By Samantha ParrishPublished 7 months ago 5 min read

Mental health has no longer been pushed away as a conversation to be dismissed. I've talked about mental health (as well as these movies) The Screen Queen with the discussions of how PTSD is shown in certain scenes as examples to make an awareness of mental health struggles. Nowadays we have movies that know how to correctly address mental health issues, but it's the movies in the 80s and 90s that put their twist on it that don't get enough credit.

No Escape

No Escape is a film that didn't get its dues in the realm of other popular films of 1994. It's not a film that's breaking any new ground as a sci-fi/action film but it does have a strong sense of intelligence to bring to an audience. One thing it did was gloss on the topic of PTSD.

Robbins (Played by Ray Liotta) is sitting outside the camp after the siege left the survivors burned and scorned from another attack from a rival tribe of military criminals. Robbins looks from afar to see the troupe of men burn a fire for their lost comrades, but the fire triggers a traumatic memory. Robbins sits on the ground, unable to control his breathing as he remembers the screaming and chaos of the event that still haunts him. For a film that feels like a sci-fi Shawshank Redemption (ironically this came out the same year as Shawhank). There isn't a strong enough word besides understated to see how Ray Liotta portrayed the layers of trauma for this character. You can physically see trauma, making it hard to know what someone is going through.

PTSD comes in many forms depending on how severe the trauma is for an individual. Triggers are different for others from items, names, or in this case. Fires.

It's evident that every time Robbins looks at the fire, it puts him right back in a place he can't escape, his mind.

"Because I can't live with it alone anymore."

One of the best lines. Please check out No Escape when you can.

In The Line Of Fire

I have nightmares Frank...about that boat with the plastic bag over my head...and I can't breathe. Phenoix just clinched it."

The service has counseled for this

I've been to the counselors Frank, I've been to the counselors."

I've shared the behind-the-scenes story that this was the first film to have an involvement from the Secret Service for procedural accuracy. This movie does not get enough recognition for how it explored the world of the Secret Service, but this specific part changed the whole commentary by having a Secret Service agent in the focus for his struggles with PTSD after a case that still stayed with him.

There is a scene near the end of the movie where Frank Horrigan's partner Al confesses he's resigning from the Secret Service. Frank tries to talk him out of it, but the problem wasn't the case they were working on, it was unresolved PTSD from the previous case where Al came close to losing his life.

Al has to take himself out of the equation, he knows he reached his limit and has to make the professional decision but the personal decision to take care of his mental health. When has that ever happened in movies before this one? Probably not, In The Line Of Fire makes a lot of firsts, and this was a first to vocalize mental health in this scene.

Even Frank himself has haunted memories of the day he felt he failed to protect the president. Who knows how long he's kept that to himself without going to get the proper care?

The film which is known as the first movie to have the cooperation of the Secret Service echoed a part of their job that doesn't get recognition of how their mental health can be put on the back burner.

First Blood

"Nothing is over!... Nothing! You just don't turn it off!"

Rambo is one of the best icons in the action genre, but his raw speech about his mental health struggles is not given the proper spotlight. He was someone who echoed a silent cry for the veterans struggling with their mental health from the Vietnam War. At the end of the movie when John Rambo is urged by his commanding officer to stop his actions in a small town that judged him, Rambo cannot follow the order. He tells Colonel Trautman he can't He gives a speech with volition about what the war has done to him. He went into this war to help people and came back to be slandered by those he protected. He's disheartened from the treatment and holds onto the scars from the war, but the ones inside his mind haven't been acknowledged.

To this day since I saw that scene as a child, it has always been the movie that I highlight as the one that taught me what PTSD was. I sat there on my mom's bed where the room was silent as Rambo's heartbreaking words pierced my heart. Even at 28 years old, that scene still gets to me and I understood it just like I did when I was that 12-year-old girl.

Lars And the Real Girl

Moving on from the action movies. The last pick is a film that is one of the few films that came out in a decade where mental health wasn't taken as seriously as it is today. Ryan Gosling plays the quiet-sheltered Lars who was hurt as a child but continues to be kind.

Over the course of Lars' story, the kindhearted pediatric doctor gets asks a hard question to Lars why he can't accept a hug from those who love him.

He says it hurts.

Lars agrees to a touch test to see where it hurts the most. Lars rates the pain as tolerable. When the hand goes to his chest, he vocalizes the pain is intensifying but tolerable. When the doctor's hand softly touches his hand. Lars shrieks in pain as his body can't take it.

It's a heartbreaking moment to understand why Lars has a pained expression on his face anytime someone hugs him. A hug is a wonderful expression of love, but to people like Lars, it provides a perspective for those we hugged who shared the same pained face as Lars. It made me think about the friends that have had to go through with this. The thought of dismissing a hug would have never crossed my mind. But then there are people like Lars who have had no way to explain that physical touch hurts too much. Everyone has a reason why something simple like a hug hurts them, and today, a story like Lars' is the trailblazer to help those get their trauma responses respected.

Take care of your mental health, you matter.

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About the Creator

Samantha Parrish

What's something interesting you always wanted to know?

Instagram: parrishpassages

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My book Inglorious Ink is now available on Amazon!

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