What to Know Before Watching ‘Unsane,’ a New Thriller Set in a Psychiatric Hospital


What to Know Before Watching ‘Unsane,’ a New Thriller Set in a Psychiatric Hospital

Editor’s Note: As a huge fan of psychological thrillers, and as a person in recovery from Bipolar Disorder, I decided to see this movie based on the trailer. I left feeling troubled and disturbed, both on a personal emotional level and as a mental health advocate. In my opinion, NOT a movie for people who have struggled with mental illness to see AND it is stigmatizing.

“Hollywood doesn’t have a great track record for sensitively portraying individuals with mental illness and the mental health system, so it’s always a red flag when a movie uses a mental illness or a psychiatric setting as a plot device…..

In the trailer, the patients in the hospital with Valentini are shown not as characters, but as proof the hospital is scary, and that the woman doesn’t belong there. We see one patient sitting in bed, looking at her menacingly. Another patient pops up with a piece of metal hiding in her waistband. In the trailer, besides the nurse and the woman, no one else speaks.

Regardless, it’s important we humanize people who stay in psychiatric hospitals. While movies and other forms of media can and should make critiques of the mental health system, using the “scary psych patient” as a plot device further stigmatizes people who have entered psychiatric hospitals to seek help and those who have been committed against their will. People in psychiatric hospitals are people and deserve better than to be othered, or used to prove Valentini shouldn’t be there. These people look crazy, so this woman must not be. Suspense!

Whether this movie ends up being just as stigmatizing as the trailer makes it seem, we need more accurate and passionate representations of psychiatric patients and our mental health system. Perhaps if a movie like this was an outlier, it wouldn’t be such a big deal — but if people are getting their mental health education from horror movies, we have to make sure they’re also getting knowledge elsewhere.” (Sarah Schuster, The Mighty)



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