It’s still pretty rare to find mental health represented on the big screen or television, and sometimes when mental health does make it onscreen, it’s not a great portrayal. However, Instagram account Humans of Cinema wants to show how films and beloved movie characters can still make a big difference when you’re struggling with your mental health, whether it’s because you can relate or because they give you hope and moments of joy.
Harshit Bansal is the human behind Humans of Cinema, and he wants to show the real-world impact of film on the lives of people, including their mental health. To do this, Bansal solicits submissions from followers about how films from around the world left a lasting and powerful impression. The stories are then posted to the Humans of Cinema Instagram account with a letter about why the film is so important and a custom graphic to represent the film, TV show or character.
Bansal, from Delhi, India, said he wanted to change the conversation about movies as just a form of entertainment and show how films around the world are shaping and changing human lives. The tagline on his Instagram account reads, “Cinema for Change, Positivity and Mental Health.” By following the stories shared on Instagram, Bansal hopes more people will find films and TV shows they can identify with, which can remove stigmas around mental health conditions and encourage people to seek help.
The Mighty reached out to Bansal and asked him more about Humans of Cinema, including why he started the account, how it has impacted him and the response he has gotten so far from the mental health community, especially in his home country, India.
Here’s what Bansal told us:
Why did you create Humans of Cinema on Instagram? What inspired you to start?
The inspiration to start the page came from a very honest place of wanting to work on the subject that I’ve always been the most passionate about: the impact of cinema. I’ve been a film buff all my life, but I started thinking about the personal, social and cultural impact of films only in the past few years. And while I continued to be affected by films so deeply and also kept on observing a similar effect on the society in general, it was baffling to see some people insulting cinema by calling it merely a source of entertainment with no social repercussions. And I just felt that the best way to disprove them would be through people sharing their own experiences of how films have had a significant impact on their lives. And that’s how the name came about too. It’s less about the films themselves and more about the humans that watch them.
How has Humans of Cinema impacted your life?
The impact has been really significant. When I started the page, my only intent was to connect with more cinephiles from around the world and help start a conversation around cinema in a way that hadn’t been done before. But I never imagined to receive the kind of response that I’ve been getting. To see that there are many more people who are interested in being a part of conversations that correlate cinema with subjects like positivity and mental health has been extremely reassuring for me. I get messages from people saying how much they connect with the stories and how the posts on the page act cathartic for them on a bad day. So it feels good to know that in the age of an increasingly negative social media, the page is creating a, however little, positive impact in people’s lives.
What type of feedback have you received from the mental health community about the project?
The response from the mental health community has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, the first time I tried to explore the mental health aspect of cinema was in collaboration with Mental Health Talks India itself. We started receiving many messages from people who wanted to share stories of how a film/TV show helped them through a tough time. That has continued to be an important theme of the page, and ever since then, I’ve talked to many mental health professionals and bloggers who have expressed a fondness for the idea and the work that we’re doing.
…With the help of cinema, we’re being able to make conversations around mental health more accessible to people who are otherwise not comfortable with it yet. Mental health is still a taboo in India, and people’s sensibilities around it are still evolving. Since cinema is something that a lot of people relate with, it could become a way to make talking about mental health a bit easier than it is.
You can see all of the posts from Humans of Cinema on Instagram, and Bansal accepts submissions via email.