The stigma around caring for our mental health is finally fading away. But taking those first steps can feel daunting.
The Netflix Documentary by actor/filmmaker Jonah Hill provides an intimate, raw view into his relationship with his psychiatrist Dr. Phil Stutz. It’s a rare and wonderful inside look at what therapy is about.
Hill acknowledges that Stutz’ methods aren’t traditional; that he found the psychiatrist’s practice to be a much needed change from professionals he’d seen before. Rather than listening somewhat passively, as most of us understand therapy to be, Stutz asks his patients why they are there. He offers tools very early on to help them move forward from whatever difficult place or patterns they’re in.
Just ten minutes into the film, Stutz shares a pyramid with three tiers.
The idea is to focus on your relationship with each item starting at the base – your body. He and Hill talk about what a huge impact simply exercising, eating better, and getting adequate sleep can have on your mind. Hill reflects on his own struggles with weight and how refreshing it is to look at physical health this way, since most of us are conditioned to view diet and exercise solely as improving appearance (which often creates even more struggles). At the center of the triangle is people – seeking positive relationships with others. Finally at the top is you, connecting with yourself in various ways, such as writing, gratitude, meditation, and more. The idea is that we must get ourselves propelled into a forward motion to make change for the better.
Stutz points out that adversity is inevitable. It is impossible for us to banish pain, uncertainty, and constant work from our lives. In his 70 plus years on this planet he has seen that often the greater the adversity we face, the more potential we have for growth and greatness. Both he and Hill touch on extraordinarily difficult times in their lives and how those events shaped them; how pain and grief can ground you by stripping away the things that don’t matter. Stutz stressed and Hill attested that utilizing tools to work through adversity helps in personal growth and that forward movement we need to live fulfilling, content lives.
“Failure, weakness, vulnerability is like a connector, it connects you to the rest of the world,” Stutz tells Hill at one point in the film. Shared hardships are so much of what empathy is about. Empathy from others can be such a healing force. Many of us who care for a loved one with complex medical needs and/or disabilities understand that connectedness. We lean on one another throughout our never-ending adversity.
What’s unique about this documentary is that it is a tool all on its own. It is a therapy session that is engaging, entertaining, empathic, funny, and endearing. What makes the film even more powerful is that Stutz has had Parkinson’s disease for most of his adult life; he and Hill do not shy away from discussing it and the profound impacts it has had on the doctor’s life.
If you’re on the fence about finally getting the mental health care you need or are one of the many, many people on waiting lists to get started or you’re in therapy but don’t love it or you’re curious about therapy or you just like watching good television – this is for you.
It should be noted that the film is not a substitute for getting mental health care. Psychology Today has a find a therapist tool for every location in the nation. If you are struggling with suicide, you can get immediate help by calling the national hotline, 988 and can find more information on the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline’s website.
If you need emotional or informational support, you can contact the Center for Family Involvement, including our mental health specialist. Call or email our helpline and someone will get back to you within 24-48 hours.