#TBT: Outlander showed just how hard depression is to show on TV

Photo credit: Outlander/Starz Image acquired via Starz Media Room
Photo credit: Outlander/Starz Image acquired via Starz Media Room /

In Outlander Season 3, the writers had the difficult job of showing depression and mental health issues. They also showed just how hard it is to show all this.

Mental health is an important subject to talk about, especially in the medium of TV. Yet, it’s hard to show some mental health problems while still making a TV show entertaining. Depression is one of them, and I write this as someone who suffered from depression and still fights against it every day. Since it’s #MentalHealthAwareness month and #TBT, this seems like the perfect chance to talk about showing depression in Outlander Season 3.

In the premiere, Claire struggled with her feelings of loss. There was anger, resentment, and hate for Jamie, but there was also this longing to get back to him; to recapture what was lost when he pushed through the stones to save her from the aftermath of Culloden.

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Yet when I found myself watching the Outlander Season 3 premiere, I found myself a little bored, for lack of a better word, the first time through. Then I realized what it was all supposed to be and felt guilty. After all, I’ve been there–definitely not for the same reasons, but I’ve had that feeling of despair and emptiness–and I felt guilty for even considering that this could be boring.

But then it struck me. Depression involves being distant. You disconnect from people and find yourself in your own world more often than not. And on the outside that can look boring or like you’re bored with life. Depression seeps at your passion and that can leave you looking like a robot.

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Watch Outlander with a FREE 7-day trial of Amazon Channels! /

How is that entertaining for TV? How can you show that properly without finding yourself losing viewer interest? One of the only options is to not show the debilitating mental illness the way it really affects people and then you’re not doing it justice.

Photo credit: Outlander/Starz Image acquired via Starz Media Room /

Outlander isn’t the only show that has had this problem. Shows like Nashville have had the problem of making their teens look like annoying, bratty children when really they’re showing the backlash and anger symptoms teen depression sufferers have. The same show portrayed postnatal depression, capturing that disconnect from the baby but at times it could look like it was someone’s selfish actions and unwillingness to remember the family. Grey’s Anatomy included a PTSD storyline that seemed to drag on–but then, that wasn’t really dragging when it was a real view at the time it can take to overcome memories and deal with the mental aftermath.

Mental illness doesn’t always make gripping TV, but does that mean it shouldn’t be shown? Of course not! But Outlander Season 3 did show just how difficult it can be to capture mental illness for a TV show and still make the content engaging.

Next: Ranking the Outlander Season 3 episodes

How did you find Claire’s storyline at the start of Outlander Season 3? What do you think about showing mental illness through TV shows? Share your thoughts in the comments below.