“I can’t have an anxiety disorder. I never even had a panic attack.
This misunderstanding is just one of the things Winona (Jessica Barden), a twenty-year-old dropout with blue hair, keeps telling herself as her pediatrician, Dr Cotton (Henry Winkler), diagnoses her with an anxiety disorder and says she should see a therapist.
He explains, “All the ailments you have brought to me over the years (including but not limited to armpit pain, ulcers and, worrying that she had breast cancer, when in fact her breasts were just getting bigger), there is a constant, you and your worry. And, your worry manifests itself in ailments.
At this point in time, it doesn’t matter whether Dr. Cotton has a great relationship with Winona, or whether it’s one of the sweetest, kindest ways to tell someone that their physical symptoms are caused by a disorder. Mental Health. Winona just isn’t ready (or willing) to hear it. She finds much more comfort in the fact that her friend Stephanie (Odeya Rush) tells her that she has no anxiety because she is both “super cool” and not “fucked”.
If Winona’s story sounds familiar and real, maybe it’s because it is deep down. Written and directed by Kelly Oxford, Pink sky ahead (premiering on MTV ad-free Saturday, May 8 at 9 p.m.) is based on his autobiographical essay titled “No Real Danger”, and that’s exactly how Oxford experienced his own anxiety of realizing that something was wrong. not because of her physical symptoms, to be diagnosed and go through a period of denial, to the fact that, like Winona, she still saw her pediatrician until she was 20. Her first panic attack was the same as Winona had experienced it.
Although there were no films in 1998 to help him overcome his anxiety diagnosis, Oxford believes that some mental health storylines in the films have since been misleading (for example, showing only one only symptom, hand washing, to represent an entire illness, OCD). As a result, she says, “I really wanted to be specific about the anxiety in mine and show it from my experience because I know it’s real and real.”
Just playing Winona helped Barden improve his own sanity. She explains that she also has similar symptoms when she has a panic attack and is diagnosed with anxiety, but, before the movie, she had a totally different understanding of it all. She points out: “Working with Kelly and making this film was very influential for me to find a therapist and to start on the road that I am now, which I am very grateful for. I ended up enjoying exploring my own anxiety. …[and] I’m grateful that I was able to do something constructive with a largely dark part of my life.
Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), believes that Winona’s story resonates with all who watch her. She explains, “pink sky is an exceptional film in that you, the viewer, are immediately involved in Winona’s life. Her character is complex and authentic, so as a viewer you experience anxiety in a way that could actually provide education for those without mental health training (either through training or through training). lived experience) … The arc of her mental health journey shows not only the struggle, but the beautiful and positive ways her mental health experiences deepen her perspective, relationships, and empathy for others.
Pink sky ahead Also encourages us to laugh at some of the difficult topics, which we could all really use right now. Barden points out: “For me the most important thing this film shows is humor. Our journey with our sanity can be fun. It must be. You can’t just look at it like that black hole in your brain. As part of her research, she worked in partnership with the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative has shown that characters with mental health issues are frequently disparaged when using humor on film, Dr. Moutier is often cautious about its use with mental health subjects. She notes, “We never want to belittle or shed light on the painful aspects of living with a mental health problem. There is a healthy way of using humor that does not make the person or their suffering the object of humor, but allows the person to experience humor and lightness. It’s a difficult thing to pull off and demonstrates a very sophisticated level of experience or expertise in mental health. She uses one word for Oxford writing: exceptional.
Meghan Hooper, Executive Vice President and Head of Original Movies and Limited Series, MTV Entertainment Group, adds, “This movie is not an after-school special or a themed movie. It’s a fun and entertaining coming of age story of a very strong young woman who suffers from anxiety and we follow this journey with her. Quite often this topic can be very serious, and it certainly has its place, but it’s nice to see it dealt with in a way that leaves you feeling inspired, optimistic, and hopefully worthy. being seen.
Although, of course, not all viewers had panic attack or even anxiety, Oxford feels that most people, especially this year, have had some out of control times and can thus relate to Winona’s breakup with her parents. She explains, “From what I’ve talked to my friends about and then read online, everyone kind of had a moment like this in COVID-19. And I just hope that when people see the movie, they can see themselves in it, and then feel the hope afterwards. Others will find comfort in the fact that Winona has chosen a different path, that she is still fine and able to come through her life. She adds, “We always show in movies, everybody goes to college and people who are professionals who, you know, graduated from all these great places, and that’s great, and I guess. this is normal, but what about everyone? “
In a year when anxiety rates have increased, with the largest increases among 18-29 year olds, Pink sky ahead is just the movie we need. It’s a conversation and entertainment starter. It makes us laugh and makes us think. And, using sophisticated mental health storytelling, it helps us know what symptoms to look for, how to talk about mental health with our family and friends, and even feel good about getting help if and when we do. also need.
Oxford explains: “I really think that people who feel like something is wrong watching this film might encourage them to go to their doctor, whether or not it is a mental or physical problem. .. A lot of people are worried about going to see doctors and I really think that showing that it gives hope, security and support is an important thing to portray in something that will reach an audience. as wide as this one.
And, luckily for us, Pink sky ahead is just the start of the de-stigmatization of media content on the horizon. He is part of MTV Entertainment Mental health is health campaign, which aims to increase positive storytelling of mental health. Hooper explains: “As a society we have been taught, often through the media, that mental health is not something to be talked about in public and that we should be ashamed of it, especially in communities. underserved. We have to break this narrative. As storytellers, we have an obligation to normalize the discussion and create more realistic representations of mental health, to stop contributing to the false narrative around the topic. “
Ideally, in the future, stories like Winona’s would be the norm, not the exception. For now, the bar is set very high. Watch May 8 at 9 p.m. to see for yourself, and maybe for the first time in a movie, you’ll feel seen too.
The author of this article is consulting with ViacomCBS but does not work directly with the film or any of the people mentioned in this article. She is a member of the Expert Advisory Board of the ViacomCBS Mental Health Storytelling Initiative and co-author of the Mental Health Media Guide.