19 Most Moving Mental Health Stories on TV

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It's so important for TV to take mental health issues seriously.

When television reinforces stereotypes about mentally ill people being violent, it increases stigma and discourages viewers who need it from getting help.

But when TV gets it right, it really gets it right! 

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Stories about mental health issues entertain, educate, and help viewers feel less alone.

Check out our top 19 mental health storylines and let us know in the comments if we missed your favorite!

And don't forget you can watch TV online right here on TV Fanatic if you need a refresher.

 

1. Kathleen's Bipolar Disorder - Law & Order: SVU

Kathleen's Bipolar Disorder - Law & Order: SVU
Law & Order: SVU's track record with mental health issues is strong, but nothing beats Law & Order: SVU Season 10 Episode 3 "Swing". In an intense hour of television, Stabler learned his daughter might be bipolar and struggled to get her to accept it, while she chose going to jail over getting help. As a bonus, veteran actress Ellen Burstyn played Stabler's mother, who was also bipolar and whose relationship with STabler was estranged as a result. Powerful stuff!

2. Rome's Depression - A Million Little Things

Rome's Depression - A Million Little Things
ABC's A Million Little Things' depiction of suicidal depression is to be applauded. Rome's decision not to kill himself when he learned that Jon had allows the show to explore suicide from two different angles. Rome's story is especially realistic and compelling because of his love-hate relationship with anti-depressants and his decision to go off them for a while and his difficulties explaining his condition to his father, who doesn't see why Rome can't just ignore his depressed feelings and go on with life anyway.

3. Bloom's Burnout and Adderall Addiction - New Amsterdam

Bloom's Burnout and Adderall Addiction - New Amsterdam
New Amsterdam's Lauren Bloom suffers from Adderall addiction, but the show takes care not to slip into stereotypes and to approach the issue from several angles. Bloom seems to be a workaholic who is burning out and has a legitimate need for Adderall because she has ADHD (a disorder that too many shows don't take seriously, if it's mentioned at all.) Her difficulties coping and even with admitting she has a problem and her anger with Sharpe for not trusting her due to her problem make for compelling drama.

4. Shaun's Autism - The Good Doctor

Shaun's Autism - The Good Doctor
Autism is too often depicted only in its most severe form, if depicted at all, but The Good Doctor shows how far we have come since the days of St. Elsewhere! Freddie Highmore's Shaun Murphy is a realistic character on the higher-functioning end of the spectrum. Shaun's idiosyncrasies and difficulties with communication and perspective-taking not only drive his friends nuts, but leave both him and hospital administrators wondering at times whether he's really equipped to be a doctor.

5. Caroline's Alzheimers' Disease - Days of Our Lives

Caroline's Alzheimers' Disease - Days of Our Lives
Days of Our Lives often plays fast and loose with reality, but Caroline's Alzheimer's disease was a different story. Caroline gradually began forgetting things and getting lost when she shouldn't have. Her story ended off-screen with the real-life death of Peggy McCay, but what we did get to see was beautiful and heartbreaking.

6. Max's Aspergers Syndrome - Parenthood

Max's Aspergers Syndrome - Parenthood
Parenthood was one of the first shows to include a family member with Autism. The showrunners didn't always get it right -- Christina's response to Max's difficulty with sexual boundaries was disturbing, for example -- and the stories sometimes focused more on how hard it was for Max's family to deal with him than on Max himself, but this groundbreaking show did offer emotional, realistic stories on a regular basis.

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