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HBO Girls and Mental Health

January 23, 2014



The “oh so” relatable HBO show Girls returned for its third season last night (Sunday January 12th, 2014) with a two-part premiere. Just to bring everyone up to speed if you were MIA last season; the second season concluded with Hannah reconnecting with her erratic, weird, but caring ex-boyfriend, Adam, in the midst her mental breakdown surrounding OCD. Jessa went missing following abandoning Hannah at her hippie father’s house, Marrie was dumped and the unforgettable Shoshanna was as always “finding herself” after ending her relationship with Ray (her crack-smoking fairy to all first season viewers). The third season picks back up with Hannah in what appears to be a somewhat healthy relationship with Adam, on the road to a positive mental state, and on the mend with her book editor and banging out pages to an upcoming publishing deadline. Marnie is attempting to pick up the pieces of her life (once again); however she is still seen constantly distraught remembering the recent wounds from her breakup. Jessa is in rehab and appears to be slightly realizing her issues, but not really making attempts to change or work on anything. And again Shoshanna is “finding herself”; this time sexually. So let’s run down the mental health component for each gal. And yes, although Hannah is the only one suffering from a “DSM” diagnosis (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder-OCD) all of the girls are depicted going through something that has mental health implications. *Please note Lena Dunham the actor that portrays Hannah and the show’s creator actually does suffer from OCD and anxiety in real life.


Within the first few minutes of the show we see Adam (Hannah’s boyfriend) giving her medication to swallow and watching as she does so. Kudos number 1 to first showing a “supportive” partner assisting their partner in complying with treatment and making it a joint journey to mental healthiness. Yes, we at BGS promote a personal journey to mental healthiness, however to have someone supporting you throughout your journey and taking an invested interest in your health is always a bonus and can be extremely helpful. Kudos 1.5 we (the audience) see Hannah at a therapist opening up minus the obvious allusion to “what Adam does all day, making paper machete things”. It is crucial to open up to any mental health professional you are working with so that, well, really work can be done. On the flip side mental health professionals have to create and environment in which you, the consumer, feels comfortable opening up. We will have to wait on our couches to see how the season plays out for Hannah because as Lena Dunham so perfectly stated in a Late Night interview referencing the positive start to Hannah as a character in season 3, “nothing ever completely stays good for the girls on this personal quest for growth that is Girls”.


Marnie, oh Marnie. She started the season loathing over Jimmy (ex-boyfriend that broke up with her). She’s seen wallowing while some in her life are sympathetic (Hannah) and others not so much (her mother). Breakups are difficult and although a “broken heart” is not considered to be a diagnosable or treatable mental illness, a broken heart can be debilitating and extremely hard emotionally. Every girl/woman and even man will most likely at some point feel an intense sadness due to an intimate partner, and nothing can truly prepare one for the force at which the heart break will hit you. However simple it may sounds you can be equipped with tools in your arsenal to cope with a breakup, and as hard as it may seem in the midst of it, move on. We at BGS hope to see Marnie process and “keep it moving” in a healthy and appropriate way as an example for girls out there going through the emotional turmoil of a breakup.


Jess. Jessa has demons, class A daddy issues mixed with a little mommy problems as well. We have seen this since her character was introduced late in the first episode of the series as the free-spirited, hippie-ish, flightly tres to the college BFFL clan. We have seen Jessa almost have an affair with the father of a girl she nannied for, get married on a wimp, and smoke literally everything under the sun. Toward the end of this episode we start to see a slight pensive shift in Jessa as she sarcastically mocks her experiences with a fellow older gentleman patient in rehab, but then is baffled and highly offended when he tries to sleep with her. Hannah, Shoshanna and Adam tot to pick Jessa up and in a heartfelt exchange Jessa promises Hannah she won’t disappear without notice again. Daddy issues or shall I say parent issues are very real. They manifest themselves in many forms, permeating on the surface in many of our feelings and actions if we let them. These issues have to be resolved for one to lead a healthy productive life. We hope to see Jessa evolve and work through her parental issues as the season plays out, in hopes that although it’s catchy for television, that the Jessas of the world too “get it together” to lead a healthy life with healthy relationships.


And Shoshanna. Yes, still curious why her name is Shoshanna, but oh how it’s fitting. As always Shoshanna has a briefer role in the show but impactful nonetheless; we catch up with Shoshanna “experimenting” sexually with several partners in an effort to reclaim/find herself. Yes, many females will experience this as well, and the lucky ones will emerge from this sexual quest unscathed from STDs, pregnancy and “slutty rumors”, but for the not so lucky ones it’s not pretty. Completely pushing back at the sexual double standard stereotypes is not the only way, there are other ways to “find yourself. It is key for one to “find themself” sexually and non-sexually but this quest should not be one with potentially extremely harmful lasting effects.  There are positive ways to find you, and we at BGS promote positive self-exploration from journaling to taking on new hobbies like ballet or knitting (it can be whatever!). We hope to see Shoshanna shift from sexual exploration to something more Shoshanna like, like jazzercising or maybe even a hip-hop class; something healthy and positive to finding Shoshanna.


Girls is a real; a real show about real girl stuff and real girl issues. This show continues to remind all viewers in their twenties and those past and future twenty-somethings that this is not a journey walked alone, but yes some side streets have to be explored solo. Mental health and mental illness is not just neurotically tapping a bell 5 times to sooth OCD, but also working through breakups and parental issues and finding you. Mental healthiness is feeling like the best you and having the best tools to continue to mentally feel like the best you despite what comes in your path. We at BGS not only will be watching each Sunday outside of Super Bowl weekend because all girls can learn from and relate to the girls of Girls.


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