12 Short Films That Talk About Mental Health


In the era of social media and the internet, vast resources of knowledge about every topic under the sun are available at your fingertips. Although this has been a boon for everybody curious and looking to expand their knowledge, it can sometimes become overwhelming for a person to sift through hundreds and thousands of articles on a particular topic. As far as mental health is concerned, the often detached and almost sterile tone of texts can prove to be a difficulty for the reader in relating to the content. This is why, film can be a way better medium to explore the nuances of sensitive topics of mental health and illnesses. Because of the earth of time in our fast-paced lives, we may not always be able to sit through an entire feature-length film. That’s where short films come in. We have compiled a list of 12 great short films that deal with mental health and disorders, directly or indirectly.

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1. Reach

Creator: Arvind Sethuraman

Reach is an English-language short film from India, directed by Arvind Sethuraman. It explores depression, anxiety, and fear which are realities of life but are often dismissed in the name of merely attention-seeking behaviours. The film focuses on the life of an individual whose struggles with anxiety and depression are depicted with great sensitivity. The film’s creators have attempted to combat the stigma attached and lack of awareness and empathy for mental health problems.

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2. But Milk Is Important

Creators: Eirik Grønmo Bjørnsen and Anna Mantzaris

But Milk is Important is an eleven-minute stop-motion short film. This film adds a pinch of humour to the depiction of serious subjects of social anxiety and paranoia. Its distinct style and charming narrative give the audience a glimpse into the life of a person living with a mental illness.

3. Letter to Siberia

Creator: Joseph Inman

Letter to Siberia is a short documentary that chronicles the life of the writer during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is the creator’s homage to the French filmmaker Chris Marker and is narrated as a letter to him. It juxtaposes the black-and-white imagery depicting the subjects of mental health, isolation, and political unrest, with colourful and joyful video footage of the creator’s moments spent with his pet dog, Agnes. The film is a testament to human resilience and hope in tumultuous and unprecedented times.

4. Waking Up

Creator: Tina Kuzman

Waking Up is an evocative short film from Montenegro. It delves deep into the mental turmoil faced by a woman who has been a victim of sexual assault and is dealing with trauma. It focuses on the themes of guilt, shame, abuse and identity, and showcases the struggles of being a woman – the violence one has to face, the punishment one sets for oneself for not being perfect, and the experiences with sexuality and body image. The film is a beautifully executed exploration of female empowerment.

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5. Not 9 to 5 with chef Sam Medeiros

Creators: Cabot McNenly, Hassel Aviles

This documentary deals with the mental health challenges faced by those in leadership roles. It follows the story of chef Sam Madeiros, depicting her experiences when she lived in Toronto and worked as a sous chef at La Palma. It highlights the often overlooked challenges faced by those in high-stress culinary positions, and the feelings of isolation, conflicts, and communication difficulties they go through. The film is an inspiring journey of not only the depths of the struggles of the chef but also her remarkable ability to overcome adverse situations, resulting in a thoroughly moving and relatable story.

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6. Mama

Creators: Cliff Choy, Nelia Phoon

Set against the backdrop of working-class Singapore, this heartfelt drama short film depicts the profound connection between a single mother and her autistic daughter. The film initially shows the dynamics of the relationship between the two, however, the plot takes a drastic turn when the daughter goes missing. The rest of the film revolves around the mother’s desperate search for her daughter, navigating subjects like disability, socio-economic disparity, isolation, and loss, of hope. The film is an exceptional piece of art, with its realistic portrayal of struggles with autism, maternal love, and the power of hope.

Read More: Autism Spectrum Disorder: Causes, Symptoms, Types and Treatment

7. Eli

Creator: Nate Milton

Eli is an 11-minute semi-autobiographical story, which was originally a form of self-therapy for the creator Nate Milton, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It was an attempt at focusing the ‘dark energy’ generated because of his mental health conditions into creative works. It is an animated short. The genre is science-fiction – the film deals with themes of mental health, stemming from the creators’ experiences in being in The realm of High Strangeness, Magical Thinking, and Manic Delusion.

8. Sometimes, I Think About Dying

Creator: Stephanie Abel Horowitz

This short film follows the story of Fran, an office-working woman who goes on about her life without being able to get rid of her desire to die. However, things change when she meets Robert. This film does an incredible job of delicately depicting suicidal ideation without being insensitive or cynical. It also perfectly balances the grave themes of mental illness and depression with the awkwardness of new romances.

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9. Beat

Creator: Aneil Karia

Starring Ben Whishaw, Beat is a film about a man that society deems ‘unusual’ or ‘abnormal’, someone you would usually avoid. He acts impulsively and walks the thin line between consuming hopelessness and euphoria. Although this film does not talk about mental health issues overtly, it reveals to viewers the inner workings of a person who is deemed to be outside the norms society finds acceptable. It is a highly impactful film that will leave you reflecting on your social interactions and how society treats those who are ‘different’.

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10. Butterfly

Creator: Blue Daniels

This film revolves around the life of a failed art student, Nadia, grappling with depression and coming to terms with the untimely death of her father. It also closely depicts her relationship with her mother, who is battling alcohol addiction. In the film, Nadia’s depression is personified as a physical entity. Although the tone is sombre, there is an underlying hope that runs along with Nadia’s journey through mental health challenges.

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11. Resurrektor

Creator: Angad Aulakh

Resurrection is a horror short film that plunges the audiences into the depths of a young woman’s grief-fueled journey. The story revolves around a young woman named Rose and her desperate, grief-fueled journey in search of her sister after the latter’s disappearance. The film deals with grief, death, heartbreak, and loss while maintaining an unsettling, eerie, and sinister atmosphere to keep the audience engaged.

12. The Distraction

Creator: Matty Brown

This film is a 10-minute short depicting the extremely disorienting experience of an anxiety attack. The genius of this short film lies in its form of portrayal of mental health problems. Instead of showing the conditions of severe depression and anxiety from a third-person perspective, it attempts to emulate the feeling of everything being ‘too much’. The images and sounds in the film gradually become unhinged, providing the viewers with a close first-hand experience of those conditions.

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Short films that explore the subjects of mental health, depression, anxiety, grief, loss, abandonment, mental illnesses and disorders, and other such issues can be a great medium for creators and writers to put their experiences out into the world. They allow viewers to feel like they are not alone in their journey, and can also instil in them hope for the future and strength to keep battling against their problems. They can also be greatly helpful in eliminating the stigma around mental health issues, and sensitise the audiences towards those who are struggling.

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