Mirabel: ‘She’s fine, totally fine!’ (Encanto series)
Mental Health and Wellbeing in 'Encanto'
It might not seem so at first sight, but the Disney movie ‘Encanto’ can become a very useful tool when it comes to Mental Health and Wellbeing Training.
The main characters all have some specificities that make them relevant as examples of Mental Health Challenges we might be facing at some point or another in our lives – Remember, Mental Health is a spectrum, we all go back and forth between Mental Health issues or challenges and overall mental health and wellbeing, overtime.
In this 'Encanto' series, we use the Mental Health spectrum to assess the Mental Health and Wellbeing characteristics of some of the characters in Encanto: Mirabel, Luisa and Isabella. And before I start, yes, I did cry watching Encanto, and definitely identify with some of the character traits!
Mirabel: ‘She’s fine, totally fine!’
I have a personal story with Mirabel: As I attended a PhD celebration party earlier this year, a 3-year old came to me asking with sparkles in their eyes: “Do you come from Encanto?”. Hair out, glasses, bright blue midi skirt, I might as well have indeed! I hadn’t watched Encanto then, so I was not sure how to take it: was it a compliment or not? Was Mirabel a nice character?
Mirabel is the main character of Encanto, and while all the members of the family have magical gifts, she has no magic. Or at least she thinks so, and so does everybody. In addition to the physical similarities, I must admit I very much identify with Mirabel for her mental and emotional states too.
Mirabel is the perfect example of us all hiding our mental and emotional challenges on a daily basis.
1. Pretending we’re fine while we aren’t
Mirabel is obviously not fine, yet she is hiding it from the whole family. She is pretending all is well, even when her parents spot the signs of her being unwell. Don’t we all do this? We’ve been raised to answer “I’m fine” when asked how we are, we’ve been raised to not get into our feelings, and we’ve been raised to hide emotions and pretend. Yet it’s ok not to be ok, and most importantly, it’s ok to talk about it before the feelings take too much space inside and before it gets too hard to stop the negative mental chatter.
“Don't be upset or mad at all
Don't feel regret, or sad at all
Hey, I'm still a part of the family Madrigal
And I'm fine, I am totally fine
I will stand on the side as you shine
I'm not fine, I'm not fine”
(‘Waiting On A Miracle’, Stephanie Beatriz)
2. Comparing to others
In the age of social media, the temptation is strong for us to compare ourselves to others, and the platforms have also been designed to be addictive, so it gets hard to stop the comparison spiral. “They have these things and I haven’t” or “They do this and I don’t / can’t”. In Mirabel’s case, she keeps comparing herself to her sisters Isabella and Luisa: they have gifts while she hasn’t, they are ‘perfect’ while she is not, etc.
“One strong, one graceful
Perfect in every way (…)
The beauty and the brawn do no wrong”
('The Family Madrigal', Stephanie Beatriz)
Comparing ourselves to others can be damaging to our own wellbeing, and it can be harmful to our mental and emotional health. Focusing on our strengths rather than weaknesses, on our opportunities rather than threats might be a good place to start. And deleting social media platforms too, it can’t harm, once in a while!
3. Going to the far end of the Wellbeing spectrum
It takes an extreme circumstance for the whole family to realise Mirabel is struggling. After the house collapses, Mirabel runs away. She goes to the river and hides in her own quiet space. Shall it take such extreme circumstances? Nobody knew, nobody knows, nobody wants to see. And sometimes, we are also very (very!) good at hiding it ourselves. And sadly, sometimes too, help comes too late. Let’s look out for each other, let’s be ready to have meaningful conversations and find solutions together. And if you don’t feel able or equipped to have those conversations, training as a Mental Health First Aider might be a good place to start!
4. Keeping all our worries to ourselves
Mirabel is hiding her feelings very well, and many of us do too. Simply because we’ve been raised that way, so no judgment or guilt here, but let’s change this! Let’s create a culture of openness where talking about emotions is essential and taught from a young age. Where we ask “How are you?” and actually listen to the answer. Where saying we’re not fine and why is widely accepted and embraced. Where crying on your friend’s shoulder is possible, as Paddy Pimblet stresses after his fight dedicated to his friend who had just died from suicide.
Let’s create a culture where we fully embrace the spectrum of mental health and wellbeing from a young age.
If you are looking for tools to encourage children to talk about their feelings and worries and to embrace the wide spectrum of differences, the series ‘Big Bright Feelings’ by Tom Percival is wonderful, encouraging children to have conversations about their worries in ‘Ruby’s worry’, for instance.
Interesting how one character in a Disney movie can get us to think about Mental Health and Wellbeing, isn’t it? Let’s continue this series, next blog article will be on Luisa, on the verge of burnout.