Inside Out & Mental Health | Banyan Treatment Center
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Inside Out & Mental Health: How A Kids’ Movie Got Emotions Right

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Inside Out & Mental Health: How A Kids’ Movie Got Emotions Right

Disney Pixar has been churning out beloved kids’ movies over the years that have been favorites for both children and adults alike.

These stories entertain and inspire with of course a few laughs along the way. While these films may be heartwarming and even elicit a sense of nostalgia in adults, as a South Florida mental health treatment center, we recognize that they can also be more educational than people realize.

Inside Out’s Mental Health & Emotional Use

The 2015 Disney Pixar film Inside Out tells the tale of Riley, an 11-year-old girl who is forced to move across the country with her family and start over. Missing her friends, teammates, and school, the move proves challenging for her and results in an intense emotional rollercoaster. While the story is about a girl, the focus is on her emotions, which have been personified and turned into their own characters – Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust. Throughout the movie Joy and Sadness often clash and are at odds with one another about how to deal with the move. Joy, who is typically in charge, struggles to relinquish control to Sadness. By the end of the movie, Joy learns that being sad can have its benefits and is a necessary part of life.

While the storyline presents an entertaining plot, Disney Pixar’s use of emotions simplifies but also conceptualizes mental health. As humans we experience many emotions and, much to Joy’s initial dismay, we cannot be happy all of the time. The movie presents some important life lessons that both children and adults can benefit from.

Inside Out and Mental Health Education

As providers of residential mental health treatment, we recognize the benefits of Inside Out’s presentation of mental health. While watching the movie itself can promote some lessons about mental health, some people have taken this one step further and use Inside Out for mental health education.

In particular, some researchers suggest that this film can educate children on recognizing and understanding their emotions. Guidelines for teachers and parents can be found across the web on how to use this movie to help children articulate their emotions. Indiana University Bloomington talks about the movie’s use for children with autism in particular and suggests, “Although animated, Inside Out is a good depiction of how our minds react in social situations and create, process, and alter memories... Altogether, these features provide Inside Out with natural potential for teaching social thinking in individuals with autism spectrum disorders.”1

Some people suggest even using the movie to educate adults on understanding emotions as well as the importance of talking about mental health. Psychologist Dr. Janian Scarlet goes so far as to say, “This is a movie I’m going to be assigning to many of my patients and doctoral students as a way to demonstrate important psychological principles”2

If you or someone you love is struggling with mental health, it is okay to ask for help. At Banyan Mental Health, we work with patients who want to manage various mental health problems and better their lives.

If you are ready to learn more, call us today at 888-280-4763.


  1. Indiana University Bloomington - Using the Movie Inside Out to Teach Social Thinking
  2. Psychology Today - Inside Out: Emotional Truths by Way of Pixar

Alyssa is Banyan’s Director of Digital Marketing & Technology. After overcoming her own struggles with addiction, she began working in the treatment field in 2012. She graduated from Palm Beach State College in 2016 with additional education in Salesforce University programs. A part of the Banyan team since 2016, Alyssa brings over 5 years of experience in the addiction treatment field.

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