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3 Ways Shameless Sheds Light on Mental Illness

Disclaimer: This article may contain spoilers.

Mental illnesses are often met with social distance and stereotypes. It hasn’t been until very recently that we are becoming more aware of mood disorders as true illnesses and are learning more and more about how to properly treat them. However, many people still believe that having a mental illness is something to be ashamed of or is something that makes them weak. Although Shameless is known for its raunchy sex scenes, outrageous language, and crazy storylines, it also has never been afraid to talk about mental illness.


1. Ian and Monica

Both Monica and Ian struggle with bipolar disorder throughout multiple seasons of Shameless. Throughout many scenes, both characters show perfect examples of what it is to experience manic and depressive states. In the finale of season 2, Monica falls into a deep depression after a period of drugs, partying, and reckless spending. She goes as far as attempting suicide during the family’s Thanksgiving dinner, depicting just how much mental illness affects not only the person suffering, but also their family. The show goes further to depict how bipolar disorder is often genetic when Ian has his first manic and then depressive episode and eventually ends up having a psychotic break, stealing a baby, and ending up in the hospital. While these scenes are emotional and dramatic, they also educate and bring awareness to the disease.

2. Frank

One of the main storylines throughout the show is Frank Gallagher's struggle with severe alcoholism and drug addiction. He abandons and mistreats his family, loses thousands of dollars, and even almost dies due to liver failure all in the name of alcohol and drugs. Drug and alcohol abuse is one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses as many don’t even consider them to be actual illnesses. In depicting Frank and his problems with alcohol in a completely honest, unfiltered, and sometimes even funny manner, Shameless depicts the true struggles that millions of addicts and their families deal with.

3. Sheila

During seasons 1 and 2, Sheila Jackson deals with severe agoraphobia, anxiety, and OCD. She makes visitors put their shoes in a plastic bag, covers all of her furniture in plastic covers, and refuses to leave the house. This causes her to have a strained relationship with her husband and miss multiple milestones in her daughter’s life. However, Sheila is eventually able to overcome her illnesses through therapy, the right medicine, and a lot of hard work. She goes from a person who alienated her family and was afraid to leave her house to a selfless and loving mother who buys an RV and travels the country. With this, Shameless perfectly depicts how although mental illnesses can be debilitating, with the right help and resources, healing is possible.



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