Representation of phases of mourning in media: depression


Overwhelmed, helplessness, hostility, flight

Dead Poets Society (1989) -Dead Poets Society is a 1989 film directed by Peter Weir and starring Robin Williams. The film tells the story of a teacher, with particular and stimulating teaching methods, who is transferred to a school for wealthy kids. In his class there are particularly culturally lively boys and among these there is Neil Perry, a boy who has family problems, especially with his father. When Neil decides to attend a theatre course, his father expresses his disagreement, without hearing replies, and at last presents Neil with what he has decided for his son’s future. Of course this plan does not include theatre, and Neil eventually decides to commit suicide, feeling entrapped because he cannot have what he wants. After this fact, the school institute opens an investigation and the blame for Neil’s suicide falls on Professor Keating and his too liberal teaching methods, inciting the students to go beyond ordinary life.

Representation of phases of mourning in media: anger


Frustration, irritation, anxiety

Remember me (2010) -this movie takes place in New York City, where a young male character played by Robert Pattinson has to deal with his brother’s suicide. His brother worked in their father’s office when he committed suicide, therefore he blames his father for the death, accusing him of driving his brother into burnout. The relashionship between father and son is based on anger, partially containing the projection of guilt for not having helped his brother by acknowledging his suffering.

The whale (2022) – The Whale, a 2022 film directed by Darren Aronofsky, tells the story of Charlie, a severely obese weighing 270 kilos, who has been spending his life within four walls since the death of his partner. A sense of oppression and claustrophobia permeates the whole story: slowly you enter the protagonist’s dark house, on tiptoe, until you find yourself immersed in all the feelings of the various characters. We find ourselves experiencing empathetically anger, sense of guilt; but also, loneliness, the desire to make up for lost time with loved ones, regret for unspoken words and sincerity which we can no longer do without.

Representation of phases of mourning in media: denial

Clinical empathy plays a role in medical care, particularly in the psychiatric field where it is intuitive that the relationship between the patient and the doctor has a therapeutic meaning, too. Empathy is not easy to teach as it’s an innate personal skill (1). Screen fiction, movies and films can be helpful to reflect on this complex topic, as “it is through emotion, whose power is to disturb the equilibrium of psyche that screened fiction stirs people’s psyche […] the emotions aroused by cinema refer to a virtual world and therefore have the potential to increase the individuals’ self-awareness while making them feel relatively “safe”.

[Gramaglia, C., Jona, A., Imperatori, F. et al. Cinema in the training of psychiatry residents: focus on helping relationships. BMC Med Educ 13, 90 (2013).

For this reason we suggest a list of movies that allow a reflection on survivors’ feelings and emotions and the different ways in which everyone faces mourning. We will follow the model suggested by the psychiatrist Kübler-Ross, who has proposed 5 phases for the mourning process: denial, anger, depression, bargaining, acceptance.

Today we will focus on denial. What’s next? Stay in touch for the next phases, which we will publish in the next weeks.


Avoidance, confusion, elation, shock, fear

13 reasons why (2017) this series, based on the book by Jay Asher, describes a group of survivors: each received a tape recorded by Hannah, the suicide victim, created to explain how all of them contributed to her suicidal act. None of these survivors expected to have a role in Hannah’s decision to end her own life, so when they receive the records, they go through confusion, shock, fear, and avoidance. According to the Kübler-Ross model, this series allows us to think about the denial phase. This TV show was controversial, especially for the decision to show the explicit suicide scene in a bathtub with Hannah cutting her own veins; for this reason, Netflix deleted it by releasing this public statement: «Our creative intent in portraying the ugly, painful reality of suicide in such graphic detail in Season 1 was, to tell the truth about the horror of such an act, and make sure no one would ever wish to emulate it. But as we ready to launch Season 3, we have heard concerns about the scene from Dr. Christine Moutier at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and others, and have agreed with Netflix to re-edit it. No one scene is more important than the life of the show, and its message is that we must take better care of each other. We believe this edit will help the show do the best for the most people while mitigating any risk for especially vulnerable young viewers». Many studies have been conducted in order to understand if the suicidal behaviour in young people changed after the episode of Hannah’s suicide aired. They all registered an augmentation of suicide and access to the Emergency Department (ED) for self-harm.

[Sinyor M, Williams M, Tran US, Schaffer A, Kurdyak P, Pirkis J, et al. Suicides in Young People in Ontario Following the Release of “13 Reasons Why.” Can J Psychiatry. 2019;64(11):798–804.

Sinyor M, Mallia E, de Oliveira C, Schaffer A, Niederkrotenthaler T, Zaheer J, et al. Emergency department visits for self-harm in adolescents after release of the Netflix series ‘13 Reasons Why.’ Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2022;56(11):1434–42.]

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)In this 1992 version of Dracula, surely the closest to the book and probably one of the greatest, thanks also to the stellar cast and direction of Francis Ford Coppola, the theme of the survivors, or in this case The Survivor par excellence, given his eternal life, is addressed from the very first minutes of the film. Here, the first phases of the Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle are well represented: from the Denial, with the great shock of Prince Vlad Draculea returning from the battle against the Turkish infidels (we are at the end of the 15th century), who finds out about the suicide for love of his beloved. Denial soon gives way to the explosive Anger phase, particularly conveyed by the tactlessness of the priest present (whom no one would want at the bedside of a loved one, except that he is Anthony Hopkins) who is quick to tell the grieving man that the soul of his beloved cannot be saved, given the deed done, and will therefore burn eternally in the flames of hell. Nothing remains for the Prince, not even the consolation of the salvation of Princess Elisabeth’s soul. Denying God and the Church for which he fought, he unleashes the forces of evil, thus transforming himself into the vampire Dracula. He will consequently cross the centuries (‘I have crossed oceans of time to find you’), taking several lovers and victims but hoping to somehow find his beloved. He will, in fact, reach the modern era, when as a young Londoner he discovers the face of his Elisabeta and does everything he can to have her, only to realize too late that it was a selfish and destructive love that moved him and brought only more pain to his new (is she?) beloved. Only after centuries does he then arrive at Acceptance, which will also symbolically coincide with his death and, finally, the peace of his soul.

A Star Is Born

Film: A Star Is Born
Directed by: Bradley Cooper
Year: 2018
Running time: 136 minutes

Plot: Cinematography has often dealt with the theme of suicidality in many different ways, and also some recent movies talk about this topic using a modern language and approach. An example is the notorious “A Star Is born”, a movie focused on a beautiful love story set in the music business world. In this movie the main character is a successful rock star named Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper), who accidentally meets a young unknown singer named Ally (Lady Gaga), while she’s exhibiting in a night club. He isimmediately very impressed by this girl: and invites her to his concert the day after, where she sings a song with him overcoming her early shyness. Since that moment, Ally begins a new career as singer, supported by Jackson, and the two fall in love. In a short time, Ally reaches success in music business world, but important private relational problems start to emerge. Jackson has a long-standing alcohol abuse problem, which has heavy consequences on their relationship. Moreover, Ally starts a collaboration with a music manager that changes radically her initial music style, making Jackson feel confused and useless in some way. Jackson decides to go to rehab, and when he comes back home he wants to start again, but the sense of uselessness and frustration are unbearable so he decide to commit suicide. Ally appears devastated by this tragedy, showing the incredible burden of surviving a suicide.


Movie of the Month (September 2019)

In September 2019 we chose a movie for you:

Collateral Beauty

Film: Collateral Beauty
Directed by: David Frankel
Year: 2016
Running time: 97 minutes 

Plot:  American drama released in 2016, about a man who copes with his daughter’s death for cancer. Howard Inlet (Will Smith), after his daughter’s death, alone, rarely sleeping or eating; he is no longer able to work or to enjoy spending time with friends, and he also leaves his wife. His friends and business partners are really worried about Howard’s mental health as well as their company’s future. They organize the meeting between Howard and the three recipients of the letters he writes after his daughter’s death, Love, Death and Time, personified by three actors.   

We propose this movie because it describes the difficult condition of a man that loses his daughter: he seems to lose every reason for living, but the strange idea of his friends and wife will save him from self-destruction, recognising that his life will never be the same as before, but maybe he can still be able to find the “collateral beauty” in his life. 

“Love. Time. Death. Now these three abstractions connect every single human being on Earth. Everything that we covet, everything that we fear not having, everything that we ultimately end up buying is because at the end of the day we long for love, we wish we had more time, and we fear death”. 

“Just be sure to notice the collateral beauty” 



Movie of the Month (May2019)

In May 2019 we chose a movie for you:

Little Miss Sunshine

Directed by: Jonathan Dayton
Starring: Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Paul Dano, Abigail Breslin, Alan Arkin
Year: 2006
Running time: 101 minutes

Plot: The story is about the trip of the Hoover family to take their 8-year old daughter Olive to the “Little Miss Sunshine” beauty pageant. Olive’s uncle Frank, a scholar of Proust, is temporarily living at home with the family after having attempted suicide. During the road trip, the family suffers numerous personal setbacks and discovers their need for each other’s support. The movie deals with very sensitive issues (homosexuality, fat and skinny shaming, suicide) seen through Olive’s eyes: travelling and overcoming difficulties together, the family becomes more united and resilient.  

“Life is one fu***ng beauty contest after another. School, then college, then work […]
If I want to fly, I’ll find a way to fly.
You do what you love, and f**k the rest.”

Source (text and image):

Movie of the Month (March 2019)

In March 2019 we chose a movie for you:

Face to Face

Directed by: Ingmar Bergman
Year: 1976
Running time: 114-177 minutes

Plot: This movie by Bergman is about a psychiatrist, who is suffering from a mental illness. Dr. Jenny Isaksson is a psychiatrist, married to Erik, who is a psychiatrist as well. Jenny is haunted by images and emotions from her past, which interfere with her everyday life and duties; she goes through a mental breakdown and tries to commit suicide.

“We are not afraid of the horrors we know. They are the ones we don’t know who frighten us”.

Movie of the Month (February 2019)

In February 2019 we chose a movie for you:

My Sister’s Keeper

Directed by: Nick Cassavetes
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin, Alec Baldwin, Sofia Vassilieva
Year: 2009
Running time: 109 minutes

Plot: It is an American drama film Based on Jodi Picoult’s 2004 novel. The story is about Kate, who had acute promyelocytic leukemia, and her younger sister Anna, conceived by in vitro fertilization, genetically matched to her sister to donate compatible organs, blood, and tissue to help her. When Anna grows up, she tells her parents that she does not want to be a donor anymore, trying to obtain through a process the medical emancipation, even if she knows that her sister will finally die because of her decision. She starts a fight against her mom Sara, who wants to keep Kate alive.  When Kate attempts suicide by a painkillers overdose, Anna stops her. The movie well explains Kate’s desire not to live any longer, asking her sister to refuse to donate her blood and organs, and to let her die.

A previous movie suggestion has been “The Sea Inside” (LINK), in line with the current debate concerning euthanasia and assisted suicide: “The topic is the object of current debates involving the whole clinical community, and it has also been the focus of two intersection symposia organized by the EPA-SSSP together with the Old Age Psychiatry Section in 2017 in Florence, and in 2018 in Nice” (LINK).

“There are some things we do because we convince ourselves it would be better for everyone involved. We tell ourselves that it’s the right thing to do, the altruistic thing to do. It’s far easier than telling ourselves the truth.” 
Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper


Movie of the Month (December 2018)

In December 2018 we chose a movie for you:

It’s a Wonderful Life

Directed by: Frank Capra
Starring: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore
Year: 1946
Running time: 131 minutes

The film is considered one of the most loved films in American cinema, and has become traditional viewing during the Christmas season.  

Plotit’s an American Christmas fantasy comedy-drama film, based on the short story and booklet The Greatest Gift (Philip Van Doren Stern, 1939). The story is about George Bailey who is thinking about suicide on Christmas Eve (1945); in Heaven, Clarence, is assigned to become George’s guardian angel. Clarence shows George all the lives he has touched, and how different life in his community of Bedford Falls would be if he had never been born, offering him the greatest Christmas gift.

The story reminds us about Mozart’s Papageno. In Singspiel, Papageno tries to attempt suicide, but he is saved by the three child-spirits: they remind him the magic power of the bells he was gifted at the start of the story (Click HERE to know more about Papageno). In suicide prevention the Papageno effect is the positive role that media can play in order to prevent suicide, in contrast with the Werther effect. Recently, many media recommendations have been implemented worldwide to foster suicide prevention and improve the quality of media reporting about suicide. Movies, TV-series, newspapers, websites and other media resources may help vulnerable people to find positive qualities, coping strategies to face off difficult moments and, as is suggested in the literature, this effect is most pronounced in an audience with increased vulnerability to suicide.

“Media can make a very relevant contribution to suicide prevention by minimising sensationalist reporting, and maximising reporting on how to cope with suicidality and adverse circumstances”.


Movie of the Month (November 2018)

In November 2018 we chose a movie for you:

Les Misérables

Directed by: Tom Hopper
Starring: Hugh Jackamn, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Helena Bonham Carter
Year: 2012
Running time: 158 minutes
Among the others awards, Anne Hathaway won the “Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress” (Oscar 2013). 

PlotLes Misérables (2012) is a musical drama film, based on the French novel by Victor Hugo. Events take place in France during the early 19th century and the movie describes the stories of many characters, representing different social layers. The main characters are: Jean Valjean, released after 19 years of imprisonment for stealing bread; Javert, a police agent who dedicates his life to imprisoning Valjean once again; Fantine, a factory worker forced to prostitute herself after losing her job to support her daughter Cosette; Marius, a revolutionary student. In the movie these stories intertwine each other.

We chose this movie because we wanted to focus on two characters: Javert and Fantine.

Javert spends all his life trying to catch Jean Valjean and send him back to prison; he becomes slave of this condition and when he realizes Valjean is not only a thief but is also capable of pity (“Is he from heaven or from hell?”), understanding that he may have been wrong, he can not find a reason to live anymore.

Fantine fell in love with Tholomyes and from this relationship a children was born, Cosette; Tholomyes abandoned them so Fantine is forced to work to sustain Cosette. She is teased by her co-workers when they discover that she is a single mother and her foreman makes sexual provocations to her. The coworkers ask to fire her because they don’t want problems (“you must send the slut away, or we’re all gonna end in the gutter”) and the foreman, hurted from the secret, asks her to go on her way. The poor woman is therefore forced to prostitute herself and is mistreated and derided by men who abuse her for little money. She then no longer ate and drank anything but brandy to keep warm and not to think about his condition.

Fantine is the literary and cinematographic example of the abused women, deluded and then disappointed from men but also from other women, victim of the prejudice. Anne Hathaway, who played Fantine’s role and won the Oscar for it, said about the character: “I searched Fantine in a dark place in my heart. On the set I felt a great anger for what is done to her, the generous heart transformed into pure hatred in order to survive.(…) For a woman the condition was difficult even fifty years ago. I have also researched the present, there are many women in the world who sell their bodies to keep their children. It seems to me that this is the right historical moment to make the human condition really better“.

This is the reasons why we chose this character for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.  


“There was a time when men were kind
When their voices were soft
And their words inviting
There was a time when love was blind
(…) Then it all went wrong
I dreamed a dream in times gone by
(…) I dreamed, that love would never die
(…) But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
As they turn your dream to shame”