What Can Learn We About Mental Health from Pixar’s Inside Out 2?

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A Review by Mental Health Program Coordinator Lesleigh Knotts

In Pixar’s imaginative sequel to “Inside Out”, the animated movie that took us inside the mind of a young girl named Riley, we are once again invited to explore the depths of mental health but this time with a bit more complexity. “Inside Out 2” delves even further into the intricate landscapes of our minds. It offers profound insights into how our emotions shape our thoughts, behaviors, and ultimately, our mental well-being. We get introduced to new, more complex characters as Riley faces new challenges in adolescence. Anxiety, Envy, Embarrassment, and Ennui (or dissatisfaction) take over Riley’s mind and offer us a creative glimpse into teenage mental health and just what makes it so perplexing.

As we journey alongside Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, Disgust and the newly added emotions, through challenges and discoveries, the film not only entertains but also enlightens, providing a poignant reflection of the human experience that can teach us invaluable lessons about navigating our own emotions and understanding mental health. 

Disclaimer: This blog article includes some spoilers of the Inside Out 2 Movie.

This movie, which has become the current highest-grossing film of the year, provided an accurate depiction of just how complex emotions can get, especially as an adolescent. Here are my favorite moments of the movie and what we can take away from it, in regards to mental health.

THE DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF OUR EMOTIONS

Research tells us that as children get older, their ability to recognize different emotions improves.

First and foremast, Inside Out 2 is a children’s movie, but it is also a great educational tool that provides kids, and adults, a way to understand their mental state more clearly. It shows that all of these emotions are not standalone experiences but are interconnected in ways we may not realize. We learn that we can experience both joy and sadness at the same time, and that it is okay.

A great example of this is Joy and Sadness walking hand in hand into Riley’s belief system. We see in this scene that Joy invites Sadness in to be a part of shaping Riley’s sense of self and how allowing opportunities to recognize coexisting emotions is so important. 

USING OUR OWN IMAGINATION AGAINST US

When Riley is gearing up for the big scrimmage game, we see Anxiety’s obsessive involvement in negatively affecting the thoughts and worries of what might happen, which prevents Riley from sleeping. Anxious thoughts can oftentimes hijack our imagination and activate our limbic system-the fear center in our brain.

These thoughts can sometimes take over any other rational thought. Because of that, it can cause insomnia and doesn’t allow our brain and body to truly rest. This scene was very accurate in how it represented what this can be like.

EXPERIENCING PANIC ATTACKS

There is a particular scene where Anxiety is overwhelming Riley’s mind that does a perfect job at explaining an anxiety attack. Anxiety or panic attacks are sadly common and up to 35% of the population experience a panic attack at some point in their lives. 

RETURNING TO JOY

Thankfully the story doesn’t end with Anxiety taking control, but shifts to Riley coming back down to her normal state of being and Joy reentering Riley’s mind.

Once the original gang finds their way back to the control room, Joy pleads for Anxiety to let Riley go, which grants Riley the opportunity to be released from her state of panic. At the same time that Anxiety lets go, we see Riley using some very important skills to calm herself down. Riley takes deep long breaths, slowing down her heart rate and telling her brain and body that she is safe. She also grounds herself, which is a skill we teach in the Community Resiliency Model Training. She is seen rubbing the bench to take her mind back to the present moment, a scene so well done.

Riley is able to reconnect with her friends and enjoy the rest of hockey camp. Breathwork and grounding are great skills to utilize when in a state of overwhelm. This whole scene captures that it’s not about getting rid of anxiety, but learning how to manage it when it gets to a certain level. 

We know in this day and age, that there is a mental health crisis specifically among youth. This movie, while is not going to fix it, will hopefully make youth and parents feel not so alone and that these complex emotions are a part of life. That is why it’s so crucial to break down the mental health stigma. It is so crucial for us to learn ways to cope, reach out for support, and take care of our minds. 

To find more resources, check out our Mind Your Mind webpage. We also have a community offering of the Community Resiliency Model Training, which focuses on growing our resilience through a set of wellness skills, on July 15th. Find more details or register for the workshop here

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, call 988 for professional mental health help. 988 is the suicide and crisis line. 

References

https://www.npr.org/transcripts/1198910281

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8545983

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