May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time when we take a moment to acknowledge the importance of mental health and the struggles that people face with their mental wellbeing. We all struggle with our mental health, and it is vital to understand that you are never alone; no matter how cliché it sounds, it’s still very much true.
The Pixar movie "Up" displays the battle with depression and self-isolation after suffering an immense loss and relates to mental health by inspiring us to find help, even in the strangest of places.
This film tells the story of Carl, a grumpy elderly man who embarks on a journey to South America to fulfill his late wife's lifelong dream. Along the way, he meets a young boy named Russell, and together they have a series of adventures that help Carl confront his depression and find a renewed sense of purpose. At its core, "Up" is a movie about loss and the ultimate struggle to cope with it. Carl has lost his wife, his home, and his sense of purpose. He is struggling to find a way forward, similar to what most of us experience at least once in our lives.
When Things Aren’t Looking Up
Throughout the movie, we see Carl dealing with depression and the aftermath of losing his wife. He is an introvert through and through and this is only exacerbated after the loss of his life partner and only friend. Carl has shut himself off from the world and is struggling to find any purpose or meaning in life. He is consumed by grief and cannot seem to move forward no matter how much time passes; he is completely entrenched in his depression.
One of the key symptoms of depression is a feeling of hopelessness, and we see this in Carl's character. He has given up on life and sees no reason to keep going. This is a common experience for people dealing with depression, as they may feel as though there is no point in doing anything or that nothing will ever get better.
Another symptom of depression is a loss of interest in things that were once pleasurable, and we see this in Carl's character as well. He has lost his passion for adventure and travel, which was once a central part of his life. He spends his days alone, fixating on his memories of his wife and their life together.
We also see Carl experiencing feelings of guilt and regret, which are common in depression. He feels responsible for his wife's death and has been unable to forgive himself or move past these feelings. Because of this, he find himself in an endless internal cycle of self-deprecation. This can be a difficult cycle to break, as the more guilt and regret one feels, the more depressed they may become. Every emotion Carl feels are normal feelings to experience in the midst of a depressive episode – an overwhelming lack of light at the seemingly never-ending tunnel of desolation. Sometimes, you have to make your own light. But it is important to understand that this figurative light amongst the darkness has immense power and you can find it in people you’d least expect.
Adventure is Out There!
To overcome depression, it is crucial to address the underlying factors that contribute to the condition. In Carl's case, he began his healing journey by forming a bond with Russell, the young boy who becomes his companion on an unforgettable adventure.
As mentioned earlier, Carl and his late wife shared a dream of traveling to South America together, specifically to reach a fictional destination known as “Paradise Falls.” As it turns out, Carl is a retired balloon salesman and he attaches thousands of helium-filled balloons to the roof of his house, lifting it off its foundation and soaring through the sky. Typical 80-year-old shenanigans.
Unbeknownst to Carl, a young boy named Russell, a Wilderness Explorer, is accidentally carried away with him, since he was on Carl’s front porch when the balloons were being attached. When Carl discovers Russell, he initially tries to send him back home, but the two eventually form a bond and continue the journey together.
Their adventure takes them to a remote jungle in South America, where they encounter various obstacles and challenges. They navigate through treacherous terrains and encounter exotic animals. Carl engages in various activities that bring him joy and a sense of purpose, such as exploring new places while helping Russell achieve his goal. Engaging in memorable and meaningful activities and setting achievable goals can help alleviate symptoms of depression and improve overall well-being.
Throughout their journey, Carl and Russell learn important lessons about friendship, trust, and perseverance. They also confront fears and overcome individual challenges, with Carl learning to let go of his past and learn to overcome his depression by finding a new sense of purpose, and Russell earning his final Wilderness Explorer badge.
Connecting with others is a crucial step in overcoming depression as it provides social support and reduces feelings of loneliness and isolation, which is exactly what Carl was struggling with. If you struggle to find that light in yourself, lean on others to shine for you. Find your unexpected companion like Russell. This amazing adventure with Russell is what helped Carl battle his depression and loneliness. Let us at A New Hope be your Russell and let’s begin this adventure together.
Your Own Paradise Falls
Carl confronts his grief and guilt over not being able to fulfill his promise to his wife. He learns to accept the reality of his situation and gradually lets go of his attachment to the physical symbol of their dream, the house they once shared together. This process of acceptance and letting go is a vital step in overcoming depression and moving towards healing.
Throughout the movie, we see Carl's journey towards healing and recovery. He is able to confront his grief and guilt, and with the help of Russell and the other characters he meets along the way, he is able to find a renewed sense of purpose and connection with the world around him. This is an important message for anyone dealing with depression, as it shows that there is hope for recovery and that healing is possible.
"Up" is a powerful movie that explores the themes of depression, loss, grief, and the struggle to find meaning and purpose in life. It is a reminder that we all face challenges in our lives, and that it is through connection with others and seeking help when we need it that we can find a way forward. Find your happiness and purpose but give yourself the gift of time. Good things take time and diligence, so don’t feel down on yourself if your Russell doesn’t come knocking today or tomorrow. Your light will come and sure enough, your Paradise Falls will follow.
A self-described geek, Maria Laquerre-Diego is a CEO and Owner who is committed to increasing access to mental health services and breaking down the stigma surrounding therapy services. As a therapist turned CEO, Maria has developed a unique perspective when it comes to mental health and the barriers surrounding mental health treatment. Influenced by her time at New Mexico State University in the Family and Consumer Science department, and University of New Hampshire’s Marriage and Family Therapy department, Maria has turned her dedication to giving back and supporting future generations of therapists. In addition to supporting mental health providers, Maria takes an active role in addressing the continued stigma of mental health services through the use of pop culture – everything from movies and television shows to superheroes and Disney characters. Maria has spoken about mental health at several local events, has served as an officer on professional boards and has provided training to clinicians all over the country while maintaining her and her family’s roots as Aggies! Outside of the office, Maria can be found spending time with her family and loved ones, exploring the world through travel, and creating cosplays for herself, her husband and their two little ones. Maria is always happy to talk about Star Wars, Marvel and mental health and can be contacted through her practice website www.anewhopetc.org