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  • Sydney Blunschi

Fictional Characters with Mental Illness Pt. 2

This time for fictional characters, I’d like to take a look at an entire TV show which handles mental illness quite closely and, in my opinion, quite well. In the Flesh is a British show with an interesting premise of a post-zombie apocalyptic world where a cure has been found for the undead. Rather than bringing them back to life, however, the cure simply gives them their awareness back. This show gives a very good look at depression and suicide. Most interestingly, it gives a unique look at both the individual struggling with mental illness as well as the impact of their actions on the people left behind. What is so interesting about that is that the character gets to see exactly what they caused in the lives of those they loved the most. While this is not necessarily the main narrative, it is a very important subplot that resurfaces numerous times. If anything seems vague, it is intentional in the interest of avoiding spoilers.

  • Kieren Walker (Depression)

  • Kieren is the protagonist of In the Flesh and his character deals with depression perhaps the most closely, especially in the first season. Already an outcast in his small town due to his sexual orientation, he struggles with finding his place and his happiness in life. After coming back to life as a zombie, he struggles exceptionally hard. Perhaps my favorite thing about Kieren is that he does keep fighting and learns to live (as well as a reanimated zombie can) with his depression with the support of his family and newfound friends.

  • Jemma Walker (PTSD)

  • Jemma remains alive through her brother (Kieren)’s death and the zombie rising pre-cure, all as a teenager. This means she has gruesome experiences and does some questionable things of her own in the name of survival. These experiences come back to haunt her as flashbacks, paranoia, and nightmares. Her struggles last for quite a while as she refuses to tell anyone that there is a struggle at all. Eventually, she accepts that she needs to reach out for help and makes the very mature decision to do so.

  • Simon Monroe (Depression)

  • Although Kieren's story arc deals more closely with depression, Simon’s character seems to have a more acute experience with it in the sense that it is very severe. His description of what depression feels like to him includes the fact that it is causeless. He has depression and that’s all there is to it. Personally, that is what draws me to his character so much, as I think depression as an illness rather than a symptom is often overlooked or ignored. Simon copes with his depression first by devoting himself to what the undead of the show consider a saviour, then to a specific character who has a habit of showing him a better way. Either way, Simon finds that he has discovered a sense of purpose and a way to keep himself going.

The common theme through all of these characters is that they all eventually come to fairly healthy ways to cope with their conditions. Kieren has several heart-to-hearts with his family in hopes of reaching ground where they all understand each other. Jemma accepts that perhaps doing everything on her own isn’t the best option. Simon finds meaning and drive in life, something to keep him going.

All of these things are equally important when living with a mental illness of any kind, not just depression and PTSD. Talk to those around you, reach out for help, and look around for your something that brings you joy and purpose in life. If you approach life with as positive a mindset as you can, you will find something eventually. It’s all about wanting to find it and wanting to get better. Because there is a better.

Keep an eye out for more posts about relatable fictional characters and remember to comment any ideas you may have below! I’d love to read/watch/listen to whatever suggestions you think of!


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