Chemical Hearts and Mental Health

The Amazon Prime original movie, Chemical Hearts, starring Lili Reinhart brings attention to the melodramatic emotions of adolescents. The movie opens with the following quote: “You are never more alive than when you’re a teenager. Your brain is flushed with chemicals that can turn your life into a story of epic proportions. An A-minus feels like the Pulitizer, a lonely Saturday night is an eternity of solitude, and your lab partner becomes the love of your life.” (Sutherland, Chemical Hearts)  

 The movie portrays the main character as feeling withdrawn and depressed before she meets her love interest, Henry. Grace, played by Lili Reinhart, uses a cane due to a tragic accident she got into before meeting Henry. This accident unfortunately killed her previous boyfriend, Dom, leading Grace into a state of confusion and gloominess. The accident was a tragedy for Grace, as viewers can infer that her life prior to the accident was prosperous and joyful. As Henry and Grace grow closer, Henry attempts to navigate Grace’s unpredictable changes in mood, while Grace tries to move on from her old life and feel like herself again. 

Grace is an example of a fictional American teenager struggling with severe mental health issues and emotional instability.  More than 1 in 3 high school students had experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in 2019, a 40 percent increase since 2009. (CDC Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Data Summary & Trends Report: 2009-2019) According to the CDC, mental health is a growing problem among teenagers. However, the CDC proposes ideas to ameliorate this concerning issue. There is a role for everyone in supporting teen mental health, including schools! The CDC states: “As we’ve learned nationally during the COVID-19 pandemic, schools are critical in our communities to support children and families.“While the expectation is that schools provide education, they also provide opportunities for youth to engage in physical activity and academic, social, mental health, and physical health services, all of which can relieve stress and help protect against negative outcomes.” The CDC even gives suggestions like linking students to mental health services, integrating social-emotional learning, supporting staff mental health, reviewing discipline policies to ensure equity, and building safe and supportive environments. 

Although Chemical Hearts is a fictional story, it highlights the struggles of real teens in real schools. Students should not feel like Grace. They can seek help in school from counselors and trusted adults. Mental health is a huge issue among teenagers and should continue to be addressed in schools.  Although progress has been made we still have ways to go in terms of normalizing the topic. 


CDC Mental Health Information and Resource: