Showtime Gets Shameless About Mental Health Illness

If I didn’t have a Netflix account, premium cable channels are the next best thing on television for me.  HBO and Showtime produce some amazing shows that provide edgier content for their audience.  The audience consists of males/females between the ages of 18-49, so these channels provide interesting shows for the age group.  Some of the series have unforgettable characters with colorful background stories.  It’s those background stories that make me want to continue watching the series to see what happens to the main characters.

Showtime has introduced me to some amazing characters that drum up a twisted storyline that made me coming back for more.  Some of the intriguing characters included a blood splatter analyst/serial killer at night (Dexter Morgan), a pot-dealing mother in the suburb (Nancy Botwin), a workaholic nurse addicted to pills (Nurse Jackie), and even a woman living with dissociative identity disorder (Tara Gregson).  It’s these main characters that drove the series forward each year.  One character in particular stood out within the Gallagher family on Shameless.

Meet Ian Gallagher, the third oldest sibling of the Gallagher family.  He came out to his family near the end of season 1 and had an on/off relationship with Mickey Milkovich.  Ian enlisted into the army by the end of season 3, only to come back to Chicago working as a dancer at The White Swallow and squatting at an abandoned apartment.  By the end of season 4, a series of erratic behaviors revealed that Ian has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  Monica Gallagher has bipolar disorder as well, so Ian inherited the gene from his mother.

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is described as having extreme shifts in mood and fluctuations in energy and activity levels.  People who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder will have high positive moods one day and come crashing down into manic episodes the next.  The word ‘manic’ describes times where someone will feel overly excited and confident, which could also cause impulsive/reckless decision-making.  Note that the dramatic high/low episodes don’t follow a set pattern within the brain.

We can clearly see Ian’s bipolar disorder come out multiple times during season 4 and 5 of Shameless.  One good example happens on episode 6 season 5 titled Crazy Love when Ian takes off with Mickey and Svetlana’s baby.  Ian conjures up a reckless decision to steal the baby and take off down to Florida.  His trip is quickly squashed when he spirals out of control and is caught by the police.  This and the past episode clearly show what bipolar disorder does to people like Ian.  It is not a pretty picture, nor should it ever be taken lightly in the medical field.

What’s interesting to point out is that Ian isn’t the only character created from Showtime.  On Nurse Jackie, Jackie Peyton’s daughter Grace was diagnosed with anxiety on season 1.  The first few seasons showcase Grace’s struggle with anxiety each day.  Nurse Jackie is another series that illustrates the seriousness of mental health issues in the country.

Ian is one of my favorite characters on Shameless.  I thought that Showtime did a great job with constructing what bipolar disorder is and how it affects their friends/family around them.  Mental health illness is a serious issue that affects millions of Americans in the 21st century.  As screwed up as the family is, they all care for Ian with what he goes through each day.  Fiona and Lip remember what Monica was like during her manic episodes, so they know what to expect with Ian’s condition.

Mental illnesses like bipolar disorder and anxiety are not something that will blow over so easily.  Millions of Americans suffer from some sort of mental disorder in their life.  There is no cure found for bipolar disorder, but there is treatment that will help alleviate the symptoms.  It’s great to see networks like Showtime bring to life the challenges people face when dealing with their mental illness/disorder.  Characters like Ian Gallagher and Grace Peyton will help educate audiences about what mental illness looks like in America.



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