Claire Danes reminded us all why we love her with her portrayal of lead character Carrie, who has bipolar. The best thing about this show is that Carrie’s mental health is not the central focus, as often happens when TV shows feature a lead with a mental health problem, and I hope marks an important leap in the media’s portrayal of mental ill health.
2. My Mad Fat Diary
Based on ‘My Mad, Fat, Teenage Diary’ by Rae Earl, the show is as forth-right as its narrator, delving into the depths of teenage angst, but with the added issue that the show’s lead has just been released from an adolescent psychiatric hospital.
3. In Treatment
Ever wanted to be a fly on the wall in a therapist’s treatment room? Then here you go (not in a voyeuristic, ‘The Man with a….’ Channel Four sort of way – this is reassuringly fictional).
4. The L-Word
Featuring a few breakdowns and meltdowns, and also self-harm in later series, The L-Word isn’t just about lesbians.
A British comedy-drama, set on a Manchester council estate, the character of Shelia, played by Maggie O’Neill suffers from agoraphobia, which is played very authentically.
With controversial storylines in abundance, Skins has not shied away from mental illness. See character Cassie’s struggle with an eating disorder, JJ’s aspergers, and Tony’s sociopathic tendencies.
Abigail Lockhart’s (Maura Tierney) mother, Maggie, played by Sally Field, was, I think, my first introduction to bipolar, watching the series as a child. Sensational acting from an award-winning actress.
Dr. House (Hugh Laurie): A misanthropic medical genius, with a serious drug addiction. Maybe not quite right for this list, but I love it so it’s going in!
Nowhere does ‘issues’ quite like Albert Square. I haven’t watched it in years (except the Christmas specials), but I’d put money on the fact that they’ve portrayed mental illness, and – knowing their award-winning history – done it well.
Tony Soprano, although head of a criminal organisation, suffers from depression and panic attacks, and his therapy sessions throughout the series not only give more of an insight into his thoughts and feelings but also realistically depicts the challenging dynamic of therapy and the struggle to accept a psychiatric diagnosis.