Home Culture & Wellness Mental Health in Movies: To the Bone

Mental Health in Movies: To the Bone


Written by Marisa Seager

If you or someone you know is struggling with any mental health concern, reach out for help or encourage them to do so themselves. For more information on eating disorders visit the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) website or contact their helpline via phone call or text.

To the Bone tells the story of 20-year-old Ellen, who struggles with anorexia. She has spent the majority of her teenage years going through various recovery programs, only to find that it turns out the same way, several pounds lighter every time. Still, Ellen and her family are determined to find a solution. She is sent to a group home for youths to confront her addiction and find self-acceptance. While staying at this home, Ellen is treated by a very unconventional doctor, who challenges her to face her condition and learn to embrace life.

Despite the uneasy subject matter, To the Bone, is a conversation starter. It provides insight to problems that are sometimes talked about, but not truly understood. There is awareness to be raised and discussions to be held about eating disorder behaviors.

Throughout the movie and with the use of quite a few characters, various behaviors are shown to represent how someone with an eating disorder may act. This includes the following: “body checking,” self-induced vomiting, over-exercising, bingeing, chewing and spitting, loss of menses, calorie counting, fear of gaining weight, and food restriction. However, there are far more symptoms than those that are depicted. They can be emotional, behavioral, or physical signs. It is important to be aware of behaviors like these so you can better spot struggles in those who are around you. If left untreated, eating disorders can result in serious consequences.

Although anorexia can affect an individual’s entire body, recovery is still possible. Through the use of psychotherapy options, social support, and nutrition services, someone who once struggled can learn to have a completely different approach and outlook on life. So, it is our duty to understand and be able to recognize all and every mental illness. Keep in mind that early detection and intervention are extremely important in all of this. I encourage you to pay better attention to your friends, family, romantic partners, and even yourself. This is the first step.

Check out To the Bone (2017) on Netflix.

Warning: the material may be challenging for some viewers.