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Random TV Characters With Mental Illness

  • Gretchen Cutler on Random TV Characters With Mental Illness

    (#2) Gretchen Cutler

    TV Show: You're the Worst

    For a comedy, You’re the Worst tackles some complex and serious issues. It was clear from the very beginning of the show that the characters all have their own battles to fight, but the series took its time to really dive into their struggles. In Season 2, we find out that one of the protagonists, Gretchen, is clinically depressed. We see not only how the illness affects her, but also how it affects her relationships – mainly the one with her boyfriend, Jimmy.

    While the show has often been celebrated for being anti-romcom, it got some serious praise for talking about depression with caution and grace. When Gretchen admits that “her brain is broken,” the character’s dysfunction stops being purely funny. Without being overdramatic, You’re the Worst takes us beneath Gretchen’s sarcastic surface and makes us understand where all that dysfunction comes from.    

    How Accurate Is It?

    On Reddit, people seem to approve of the way You’re the Worst deals with depression. “Their portrayal of clinical depression is extremely realistic for a show of this genre and I think they're doing a great job with Gretchen and this whole season (n.r season 2). I loved the show when it was funny, but I'm glad they took a few episodes to address this very common issue with maturity and not make it a cheap joke,” one user writes.

    Another adds: “There's a scene where she goes to an overlook in the middle of the night to bawl her eyes out in her car so she doesn't wake her boyfriend and I was just silently crying next to my husband. But not because it made me sad, like I said. It was some weird feeling of vindication (maybe not the right word?) or relief that I wasn't the only person on the planet who had felt that way before.” Following suit, the LA Times went as far as to call You're the Worst's “There Is Not Currently a Problem” episode TV’s “best depiction of clinical depression ever.”

    But depression can affect people in different ways, and Gretchen’s portrayal likely didn’t work for everyone. That being said, complaints about the storyline aren't about the depiction of the illness per se, but more about the show ‘not being so funny’ anymore. As one viewer puts it: “The depression storyline has been the biggest slog in the world and goes completely against the tone and humor that made season one so great. You can have pathos and explore emotional issues without it being a narrative dirge and unfortunately, this season has been utterly consumed by the depression storyline.”

  • Jessica Jones on Random TV Characters With Mental Illness

    (#3) Jessica Jones

    • Marvel Universe

    TV Show: Jessica Jones

    As a show about trauma, Jessica Jones doesn’t shy away from dealing with the consequences of going through something awful. The titular character of the show isn’t experiencing what you might call a "speedy recovery" after her time with Kilgrave. She’s been raped and controlled by the villain, so she’s now suffering from severe (and diagnosed) PTSD. Jessica may be a super-human, but she’s emotionally fragile and does her best to cope with the aftermath of Kilgrave using her as his plaything.

    Coping in this case includes setting up a support group for Kilgrave’s victims, repeating a mantra she learned from a therapist, turning to alcohol to dull her senses, and, eventually, confronting her rapist. Even super-humans are susceptible to the effects of trauma, and Jessica’s illness is much more than a justification for her to become a gritty and dark hero.

    How Accurate Is It?

    For the most part, people tend to agree that Jessica Jones does a good job at portraying PTSD and the devastating effects of dealing with a trauma. “I had a very difficult time watching the pilot episode. It makes me very uncomfortable because of how well they are portraying PTSD symptoms. It's a good thing, but still hard to watch,” one Reddit user writes.

    Another user agrees, proclaiming: “Hands down, Jessica Jones is my favorite Marvel endeavor to date (and I'm a huge fan of the Marvel franchise). I really can't believe how well they captured the disorder in all its many facets (I really identified with the substance abuse as a medicator for symptoms), and yet the story is one of hope, of persevering over near-impossible circumstances."

    The only thing that seems to annoy viewers is the way in which she finds the strength to eventually recover. In one fan's opinion, “[taking] back your control isn’t one moment that lets you kill your demons. It’s screaming back at them every time they come out to play. It’s having your friends and family whisper the truth in your ear when all you can hear is lies. In my mind, for Jessica to have defeated Kilgrave, she needed to have stopped hating herself first. And she can’t do that alone or by a sheer act of willpower. That’s a lot harder than killing the bad guy."   

  • Ryan Newman on Random TV Characters With Mental Illness

    (#11) Ryan Newman

    TV Show: Wilfred

    Critics have called Wilfred a whimsical study of mental illness, and they have a point. The main character, Ryan, suffers from depression with periods of mania and schizophrenia. He hallucinates his neighbor’s dog Wilfred as a man wearing a dog suit. And while that does lead to some comical situations, the series also tells a heart-wrenching story. The show literally begins with Ryan trying to commit suicide in the opening episode. By series' end, he accepts that he is mentally ill but no longer feels the need to resort to such drastic measures to solve his problems.

    At the same time, as the series progresses, both Ryan’s mental health and his relationship with Wilfred are perpetually questioned. We might be talking about a dark comedy, but the issues it tackles are complex and real. And its depiction of mental illness, although inaccurate at times, makes for extremely compelling television.

    How Accurate Is It?

    When it comes to the accuracy of Ryan’s portrayal in Wilfred, everybody has their own opinion about Ryan’s struggle. “Every time" Ryan "comes to his senses", Wilfred (his delusional mind) ups the ante to remain relevant. The series effectively shows how a gifted, intelligent lawyer can be destroyed by mental illness,” one Redditor thinks.

    In other words, whether or not Wilfred is real, Ryan’s manic-depression is prevalent throughout the series. Even Elijah Wood, who portrays Ryan, admits accuracy wasn’t the show’s main concern: “We were really working within our own reality and a certain level of generalities as it pertains to what those symptoms were because we were never trying to make something accurate in regards to mental illness.”

    One thing is certain: Wilfred is pretty fun to watch. As one viewer says, “It’s probably not the most accurate depiction of mental illness, but it does make for a fairly entertaining TV show.”

  • BoJack Horseman on Random TV Characters With Mental Illness

    (#4) BoJack Horseman

    TV Show: BoJack Horseman

    Who would have expected to get an accurate portrayal of clinical depression from an animated show? And yet, BoJack Horseman, with its cult following and complex storylines, may just be the saddest funny show ever.

    That’s mainly because it allows its main character to succumb to his demons more often than it lets him enjoy his success. The creators don’t tell you flat-out that BoJack is depressed. Instead, they let viewers peel back the various layers of the deeply unhappy hero until there’s no doubt that he’s struggling with mental illness. As they put it, “the goal was never like, let's really create an expose, let's really investigate this kind of thing, let's diagnose BoJack in a certain way. I think it was more about just trying to write this character truthfully, and taking him seriously.”

    During the show, BoJack is a has-been actor who collapses into a black hole of alcoholism, depression, narcissism, and self-destruction. He struggles to get better and fails over and over again, proving that recovering from mental illness isn’t only about willpower. It’s about having a strong support system, making better decisions on a daily basis, and getting help. We don’t see BoJack lying around all day. Instead, we see him struggling to figure out how to overcome his shortcomings.

    How Accurate Is It?

    The majority of BoJack Horseman fans and critics have praised the way in which the show tackles depression.

    “I never saw my depression on TV or in movies. […] So when I finally really saw depression as I knew it, a direct reflection of my illness, not an exaggeration and not an underplay, I didn't quite know how to feel. This is so intense, I thought. This is so necessary. But, as the show progressed, I began to notice not only the truth about depression depicted in BoJack Horseman, but the behaviors as well. I started asking myself, more and more often: Do I do that? Is that me?” Rosey writes for XO Jane.

    “It is nice to see a show portray how I feel though. Self-sabotage is a recurring theme in my life and season 2 was just perfect,” a Reddit users agrees. Fans even found other disorders portrayed in the series. “I firmly believe BoJack suffers from adult ADHD. I have it myself, as well as my dad and boyfriend having it, so I am very familiar with the symptoms and presentation,” another Reddit user points out.

  • Edgar Quintero on Random TV Characters With Mental Illness

    (#9) Edgar Quintero

    TV Show: You're the Worst

    Gretchen isn’t the only one dealing with mental illness on You’re the Worst. Jimmy’s roommate Edgar is a veteran who has been struggling with PTSD from the very beginning of the show. In the first two seasons, we saw him at his worst when he was living on the streets, but we also saw him navigating the Veterans Affairs office to get his medicine and trying to live with PTSD as normally as possible.

    In Season 3, however, Edgar’s disorder gets center stage after he gives up his medication altogether. It makes for a devastating and raw episode, as Edgar gets treated poorly by his best friends, struggles to fall asleep, becomes paranoid, and even contemplates suicide. The show’s creator always tackled Edgar’s PTSD with sensitivity, but in “Twenty-Two” he gave us an incisive glimpse into the character’s private mental hell. Add in the fact that the episode title refers to the number of U.S. veterans who commit suicide daily, and you’ve got yourself a heartbreaking half-hour of television.

    How Accurate Is It?

    Once again, the Internet seems to applaud the way You’re the Worst deals with mental illness. “I know combat vets with real problems and I thought they did a really good job of capturing what some of them have told me they go through every day. Especially the BS and hoops you have to jump through at the VA, they nailed the part of the MD's and employees attitudes and always shoving medication down your throat,” one Reddit user writes.

    Another agrees: “I'm not a veteran, but I do have some PTSD as a result of witnessing a violent death. This episode gets it right. The constant anxiety, paranoia, and irrational fear are portrayed perfectly. I hope that none of the showrunners are drawing on personal experience.”

  • Rebecca Bunch on Random TV Characters With Mental Illness

    (#12) Rebecca Bunch

    TV Show: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

    Despite its terrible title, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is about as heartwarming as it gets. And one thing that makes it really stand out from the crowd is Rebecca’s struggles with anxiety and depression. Rachel Bloom, who portrays Rebecca, isn’t afraid to get candid about her battle with depression either, so there’s no wonder the show got a few things right, despite often being overlooked as a goofy musical comedy.

    The show romanticizes Rebecca’s “Sexy French Depression,” but also gets real in “You Stupid Bitch.” “This was one of the most personal songs for me, because this is how I actually think about myself when I’m at my most depressed,” Rachel says.

    How Accurate Is It?

    While Rebecca does deal with mental health issues, the diagnosis isn’t always clear. This isn’t such a bad thing, since it can make her even more relatable. “A lot of that stuff is all mixed up together, but sure she could be bipolar, she could have generalized anxiety disorder, depression is comorbid with everything. ADHD is big with addiction and lack of impulse control.

    It's a mistake to think that she has a specific diagnosis, in my opinion. Anybody who finds their life completely empty, unhappy and without meaning can end up doing some weird things, especially for love. By latching onto a specific disorder, you might miss how Rebecca has universal emotional traits”, one Reddit user writes.

    Another one thinks: “I too feel like I can relate to Rebecca. Moments like "You Stupid Bitch" and "Sexy French Depression" in particular; the kind when she's just wallowing in self-pity without any real awareness of what got her in the situation. Or how she expects Josh to fix all her problems with the four-Josh Boy-band. While I'm nowhere near as intensely troubled as she is, I see a lot of parallels between her and me. I've never seen that kind of similarity with any other TV show, movie or even book.”

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About This Tool

In the history of television, mentally ill roles have been reduced to villains, victims, or funny harlequins. In recent years, this type of character has gradually become a positive protagonist, and the character's illness is often used to help the plot reach its peak or as the key to uncovering unanswered mysteries. But does the performance of the actors help ordinary people understand the mentally ill?

Many outstanding actors vividly portray real and accurate mental patients, just like people can get all the crazy energy. There are more interesting mentally ill TV characters over the years who have broken stereotype images. The random tool lists 12 famous TV characters with mental illness you did not know.

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