"Bird Box" Raises Mental Health Concerns Among Some Viewers

By Beth Leipholtz 01/03/19

The Netflix blockbuster has received some backlash for its portrayal of individuals with mental health issues.

Netflix's Bird Box has received backlash for its portrayal of mental health
Photo via YouTube

If you read the news or take part in social media, you’ve likely heard of the new Netflix sensation Bird Box.

The film, starring Sandra Bullock, is classified as a psychological thriller and is based on a novel that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world. The film is quite graphic at parts, and, according to Psychology Today, could have some underlying messages about mental health. 

In a recent column, Shainna Ali, PhD, notes that some viewers have voiced that the movie should contain trigger warnings for certain parts. While Bird Box is rated R, implying there may be “adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements," it’s not quite clear to viewers exactly what the film will entail. 

“While this rating is a helpful, it's rather broad and fails to include specific elements pertaining to mental health,” Ali writes. “A system designed to flag potential warnings for children is an excellent start, but adults are not immune to being affected by triggering themes as well. The current classification could benefit from specifiers pertaining to mental health trigger warnings for themes such as anxiety, trauma, self-harm, and suicidality.”

Some viewers, such as Twitter user @seraphfem, took to social media to voice their concerns.

“trigger warnings for bird box on netflix: suicide, self harm, gore. lots of blood, graphic depictions and sounds of death/suicide. suicide via oncoming traffic, building jump, self inflicted gunshot, self inflicted head bashing, and self inflicted stab wound to the neck,” seraphfem tweeted.

In addition to triggering scenes, Bird Box has also taken some flak for the way it portrays individuals struggling with their mental health.

“Bird Box has received criticism for perpetuating negative portrayals of individuals living with mental health concerns, specifically those who are hospitalized,” Ali writes. “Some hidden messages could be gathered as well, such as the inability for others to see the problem and the subsequent tendency to minimize the gravity of the problem.”

Additionally, Ali adds that the way the film is interpreted depends greatly on the life experiences of the viewer. 

“Some people may experience triggers pertaining to their lived experiences, while others may not,” she says. “Some people may view the film as negatively depicting health disparities, while some may point to scenes that highlight positive portrayals. Some people may see a statement on the state of society, while others may feel a poignant connection to their own life.”

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at www.lifetobecontinued.com, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.

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