How watching movies can light up depression

Depression is an emotional illness in which the person feels a deep sadness, low self-esteem, and a strong feeling of hopelessness. Experts recommend movies as a resource for  understand the illness or creating empathy for those who suffer. Identification with characters inspires and encourages the search for healing.  


Depression is a worldwide disease, with over 264 million people affected[1]. Depression is different from the usual fluctuations of mood and sadness generated by some daily difficulty. When depression lasts long, it can become dangerous disease. In addition to causing great suffering to the patient, it damages their life at work, school, and family, and can lead to suicide. According to the WHO, about 800,000 people die of suicide each year, and this is the second-highest cause of death between 15-29 years of age[2].

Depression and movies

If you usually watch movies, you’ve already realized that depression is a very explored theme. Generally, movies represent mental disorders in a very reliable way. It is because both cinema and psychiatry and psychology have their primary focus on thought, behavior, motivations, and emotions. Movies also serve as a pedagogical tool in some medical schools. The reason is that the student can visualize in the movie situations of the patient’s life that do not appear in an interview in the office[3].

Furthermore, watching films can also be an excellent form of therapy. Several scientific studies prove the benefits of watching movies. Even this has a name: film therapy or cinematherapy.


Psychiatrist Gary Solomon Ph.D., MPH, MSW, is the author of two books on cinematherapy and says the idea of this method is to choose films that mirror current problems or situations. For example, if you are dealing with a severe illness or the death of a loved one, a film that addresses these issues may be helpful. But this should not be done in any way. There is a method, and the patient should first analyze it with a healthcare professional. 

According to Dr. Birgit Wolz, Ph.D., MFT, cinematherapy is also useful for learning how films affect us and for learning to watch certain movies critically and consciously. Cinematherapy does not work miracles, but it allows us to use the effects of movies on our psyche for insights, inspiration, emotional relief, and natural change [4].

Bernie Wooder, after several studies, concluded that viewing movies, as part of therapy leads to mood enhancements, reduces focus disorders, and helps to unblock traumas. Wooder’s theory can be proven in his film “Movie Therapy: How It Changes Lives.” [5]

On this subject, researcher Sorina Dumtrache published a scientific study entitled “The Effects of Group Cineterapy on Reducing Anxiety in Youth.” The results indicated a significant drop in anxiety among the participants of the Cinematherapy program, as opposed to those who did not participate[6].

How to use movies as therapy

Dr. Solomon gives ten tips on how to watch movies as therapy:

  1. Select a movie you would like to watch. Choose wisely, find good movies where directors and producers are recognized.
  2. Focus. Make sure you are not disturbed, take the phone off the hook, or turn off the sound to avoid interruptions and put children to sleep. Even if you watch in a group, make the movie the main focus. Avoid detours that will take you away from your feelings and the messages the movies has to offer. No drinking, eating, smoking, etc. Focus. Focus. Focus.
  3. Read first about what the movie is about. Read what others have commented about the movie. 
  4. Take note. Highlight the subjects you are interested in looking for in the movie. Keep a pencil and paper nearby, and keep a diary of what you are feeling while watching the movie. Before you start, tell yourself that you will focus on your feelings. 
  5. Don’t miss the beginning of the movie. The healing begins the moment the actors start acting; this includes the opening credits.
  6. Watch the film from beginning to end. Take your hands off the remote control, or don’t slide the video.
  7. Try to identify yourself with a character or situation. What feelings do you experience? Look for the reasons that brought those feelings up. What is happening on the screen that reminds you of something from your past or someone you know or once knew? Have you been avoiding things or doing something that has given you a feeling of guilt, anger, sadness, etc.?
  8. Take some notes about what you are experiencing. Don’t worry about how the notes look or what you’re saying. Just put your thoughts on paper. Use an audio recorder and record your thoughts if you prefer, but keep going through the film.
  9. After the movie is over. Turn off your screen and be alone for a few moments. Take your time and do something else. Use the time to be introspective and self-exploration. Look at your notes and write more about what you are experiencing. Keep your notes in a place where you can reflect on them for weeks and months to come; never destroy what you have written.
  10. Build a library of your thoughts. Write your own book of recovery movies. Whether you watch the movies alone or as a group, you will experience tremendous personal growth and healing.

Negative Points and Cautions

The problem with Cinematherapy is that in this method, people may want to treat themselves, and this can be worse if they choose a movie that can cause an adverse effect. So, follow some advice if you intend to use this method:

  • Not every movie about depression is good for the depressive. Some movies can be quite unrealistic and help create or maintain stigmas and prejudices about health professionals or patients.
  • Nobody should cancel their next therapeutic appointment to marathon a series or plan the use of Cinematherapy as a substitute for professional counseling. Like art and music therapy, Cinematherapy can be a handy tool when incorporated into a therapeutic process.
  • Movies can also exacerbate some mental conditions. Emotionally charged events in movies can occasionally bring back traumatic repressed memories.


Movies are part of our history and can be a real example of how art imitates life. Movies can help yourself or support friends and family who are on the path to healing depression. Cinematherapy can help to improve the social and communication skills of patients and the development of empathy in those who accompany patients. It is vital that in Cinematherapy, movies are chosen with discernment, and that method must be assisted by professionals. 

Uncertainty Movie

This June, the Adventist church will be launching a worldwide movie project called Uncertainty. The goal is to address issues that have led many people to suffer from depression and offer motivation messages. The Uncertainty movie will be released on







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