How ‘This is Us’ Helps to Facilitate Open Communication Regarding Mental Health & Addiction

Mental health issues and addiction were once subjects that the entertainment industry was not willing to approach on prime-time television. The inundation of celebrity media coverage regarding mental illness and addiction in recent years has helped to facilitated more open communication regarding these sensitive issues. While This is Us is not the first prime-time television show to breach these topics, the shows relatable family dynamics, high emotionality and its popularity have proven helpful in narrowing the crevasse between mental health issues and addiction, and the resistance to social dialogue.


The show, now in its 3rd season, centers around married couple, Jack and Rebecca Pearson, and their triplets; Kevin, Kate and Randall. Each dealing with their own demons, the show travels through the life of each character and paints a picture of a deeply loving, exceptionally loyal, heartbreakingly wounded family and their journey toward resilience.

Though their common thread is grief, each character deals with their issues in different ways. Kevin, an actor, struggles with addiction in the form of pills and alcohol as a way to cope with his intense feelings of inadequacy and unaddressed grief. Kate, who struggles with an eating disorder, blames herself for their father’s death, and Randall, adopted at birth, struggles with identity and cultural issues as well as panic disorder.


Even if you have never struggled with these issues, this show has a way of humanizing its characters in a way that shines more light on the things we all have in common than it does our differences. The compassion we have for these characters has us talking about their issues with empathy rather than judgment. We don’t always have the luxury of doing a deep dive into other people’s lives. We often make judgments based on what we see on the surface. This show gives us the opportunity to go beyond the mental health issues and the addictions and really see these people for who they are and, more importantly, why they are.

When Randall is puddled on the floor of his office; rendered immobile by the crushing reality of his current pressures, we can feel the pang of emotional recognition in our gut. It may not have looked like that and it may not have been for the same reasons, but we have all had those moments of overwhelm.

When Kevin, doubled over in emotional pain on the lawn of a high school acquaintance, cries out to the ether for someone to help him, our hearts tweak with the knowing of those feelings of heartache and loneliness.

When Kate breaks down at the family cabin and reveals that her greatest fear is that even if she does lose weight, she will still be unhappy; it’s a reflection of our own symptoms of a bigger problem.


One of the most remarkable things This is Us is its ability to put words to very deep, painfully raw and sometimes enigmas emotions. While those who suffer from and are affected by mental health issues and addiction know how it feels inside them, it is often difficult to find the words to express these issues to others. This is Us has not only helped to give us the words, but also the personification of these issues in its likable and relatable characters.

Overall, it’s the connection we feel, not just to the characters in this, or any, television show, but to one another that creates space for us talk safely about our struggles. If you are struggling with mental health or addiction issues, please call Niznik Behavioral Health today for the support and connection you need.


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