Why Mental Health Representation In Media Is So Important

In lieu of Netflix adding The Legend of Korra to its ranks, it is so important to talk about mental health representation in the media. The Legend of Korra is a spin-off series to the beloved Avatar: The Last Airbender and follows Korra, who is the avatar directly following Aang. At the end of season 3, it is obvious that Korra is not her usual bright self after a battle leaves her severely injured. Rolling into season 4, Korra’s storyline is heavily peppered with mental health concerns - she is shown attempting to recover, physically and mentally, from her injuries and very obviously struggling with her new normal. Exhibiting typical behavior of somebody with severe depression, she lashes out at the people closest to her and distances herself from everybody else. Korra is jumpy, irritable, having clear signs of post-traumatic stress, and having hallucinations that could possibly hint at a near-psychotic break. 

Suicide Prevention Week Photo by Dan Meyers from Unsplash

In seasons 1 and 2 of the show, it seemed like Korra was mentally invincible compared to later seasons. After the shocks of the first 2 seasons without any particularly nasty reactions apart from a few tears shed, it seemed like the writers might be trying to make Korra almost robotic in all emotions except joy and anger. However, seasons 3 and 4 are possibly the most important media that I have ever personally watched, especially considering its target audience is teens and young adults. Korra, who incidentally is already a female person of color, is shown as having mental health problems just like anybody else. It is so, so, so important to see this in an everyday, regular show that anybody has access to. It shows people, especially the target audience, that it is okay not to be okay, and it is okay to need help to better yourself. Personally, watching The Legend of Korra was an act of self-care, teaching me that it is okay to struggle and to suffer, but that you never have to do it alone, and you will always make it through to better times again. 

The truly important part of the series is seen when Korra realizes what is going on with her. She does not hide away and continue to suffer in silence - she takes her life into her own hands and does everything in her power to put herself back together again. Not only is Korra a powerful female figure for girls everywhere to look up to, she is also a role model for mental health and how serious it can truly be. Many shows represent only the physical issues that some people go through, and while that representation is important, it is much more widely talked about than what happens in the brain. It is important to have equal representation of people who suffer from mental health disorders but do not want to cause themselves physical harm - these disorders can be just as serious as physical ones.  

For anybody that has not watched The Legend of Korra, in particular anybody who is struggling with their mental health, I would highly recommend this show. It truly brings to life what it means to be human even in a show where the characters have such unrealistic skills. As somebody who reads and watches TV as a way to escape, it is so important to have characters that you can relate to, and nothing makes a character more relatable, and more important, than when mental health is introduced.