Home Mental Health Understanding Teen Mental Health: Lessons from the Netflix Film “To The Bone”

Understanding Teen Mental Health: Lessons from the Netflix Film “To The Bone”

by Lucy
0 comment

In an era where mental health issues among teenagers are on the rise, they are also slowly being recognised and spoken about. The popular media has taken the torch and is beginning to shed light on these often stigmatised topics.

One such attempt is the Netflix film “To The Bone” a poignant exploration of the challenges faced by adolescents grappling with mental health issues, particularly eating disorders. For parents who want to navigate the complexities of their teen’s mental well-being and don’t have any tools to try to fix, mend or prevent such things, this film offers powerful insights that can inspire and hopefully act as a valuable guide.

Netflix "To The Bone" film | se.flixable.com
Photo credit: se.flixable.com

*Post may contain affiliate links. Full disclosure can be viewed here.

Understanding the Film

Netflix film “To The Bone,” starring 20-year-old Ellen, played by actress Lily Collins, is living with anorexia nervosa, which for those who aren’t aware, is an eating disorder characterized by abnormally low body weight, intense fear of gaining weight, and a distorted perception of weight.

While many have praised the film for its education and awareness of many young people who go through such suffering, it also provides great insight for parents, who can now better understand the triggers and early signs of teens developing an unhealthy relationship with food.

Through the film. Ellen has been in and out of treatment centers for years until she goes to a center run by Dr. Beckham, who takes a different route to treatment by creating a community style of living and giving the patients the power to decide if they do or do not want to get better.

This teaches parents that you cannot force your children to do anything and the choice of improving their behavior and taking the steps for a happier and healthier life is out of your hands to a certain extent. It’s the same for many disorders and addictions; a person will only get better if they want to.

In one scene, Dr. Beckham encouraged a patient to dance. He asked why he was asked to do that and the patient responded “Because we’re alive”. This moving scene can motivate parents to encourage fun things that can trigger feelings of wanting to be alive; this could trigger the beginning of their healthy journey.

Films like “To The Bone” can serve as helpful educational resources, supplying the information you might not be able to get from those under your roof, so turning to these films, online sources and music are sometimes the only things parents have to navigate through this.

Empathy and Open Communication

One of the film’s strengths is its ability to evoke empathy from its viewers. As a parent, watching Ellen’s journey can foster a better understanding of the triggers and emotional whirlwinds that come with mental health issues in teenagers. Ellen’s relationship with her family and friends strongly highlights the importance of open communication and empathy you need for your child going through the same thing.

It’s not going to be easy to see your child hurting, or you might not be able to understand where it comes from but all you need to do is act as a shoulder to cry on and provide a strong support system.

Parents may find resonance in the film’s depiction of Ellen’s strained relationship with her stepmother and the eventual reunion with her biological mother. These relatable but also unique dynamics underscore the need for patience and unconditional support, even when matched with resistance and difficulty.

It’s crucial that, even if you are being pushed away, you remain there and maintain a dialogue with your teen, creating a safe space for them to speak and be heard without any judgment.

Navigating the Complexities of Eating Disorders

“To the Bone” provides a nuanced exploration of eating disorders, offering valuable insights into their complexities. Parents grappling with teen eating disorders can find solace in the film that works on demystifying the condition.

In the portrayal of Ellen’s interactions with her treatment team, she begins to explain the range of issues she has with speaking about her mental health issues, which emphasizes the importance of professional interventions. These are spaces where you don’t feel alone and you can expose those parts of your mind easier.

The film itself doesn’t shy away from the physical consequences of anorexia nervosa; this can serve as a wake-up call for parents who may underestimate the severity of their teen’s condition. By exposing all angles of this eating disorder, you are educating parents on the urgency of exposing their child to medical interventions.

Breaking The Stigma

Teen mental health issues are often accompanied by stigma and other explanations, such as “hormones” or “it’s just a phase.” These stigmas can have deadly consequences, hindering open conversations and timely interventions.

“To the Bone” takes a bold step forward to break these barriers and create a central narrative. Parents can learn from this and begin to break down their stereotypes associated with teens going through mental health issues, encouraging you to approach your teen with an open mind and empathy.

Addressing Co-Occurring Mental Health Conditions

The film also covers the topic of co-occurring mental health conditions. It’s not uncommon for people to relapse; it’s the same with anything else. It’s as simple as you promising yourself you’d only walk to work; you’ve been doing it for a month with no problems and then it rains and you fall for the temptation of getting a taxi and then you’ve fallen back into the routine of not walking again.

By shedding light on the interconnectedness of issues such as depression and self-harm with eating disorders, the film encourages parents to be vigilant for signs of distress in their children. They can observe behaviors like constant eating throughout the day or noticing unusual lunchtime habits at school.

Parents should also keep an eye on physical signs. Are they wearing layers or long sleeves in the summer to cover things such as scars? Are you noticing signs of tooth decay?

If concerns arise, seeking guidance or verification from a professional, like a dentist at Leamington Spa if you’re noticing signs of tooth decay or your teen’s doctor if you see other physical signs, is essential for peace of mind and verification of where these oral issues are a result.

Understanding the interconnections between the nature of mental health challenges enables parents to advocate for a holistic treatment plan, provide unconditional support, and tailor it to their teen’s specific needs.

Coping Mechanisms and Support Systems

“To The Bone” not only highlights the struggles but also offers insight into the coping mechanisms and the significance of a robust support system.

Parents can draw inspiration from the film’s focus on group therapy and how it can be extremely useful for your teen, as they don’t feel alone in this anymore and can relate more to these groups who can offer mutual support. But it is important that parents remain a key part of the recovery process and the journey of healing doesn’t begin and end at these support groups.

Final Thoughts

The film was inspired by director Marti Noxon’s recovery from anorexia, and Lily Collins also battled an eating disorder. As a result, parents can have confidence that this film is solely intended to educate parents about teen mental health issues and provide useful insights on how to best support and navigate their children through these times.


  • Lucy

    I am Lucy, 24, and I am from Manchester. I graduated a couple of years ago with a degree in creative writing. When I'm not reading romance novels, I am usually watching true crime documentaries and listening to podcasts.

You may also like

Leave a Comment

error: Content is protected !!