The magic of mental health and self-care in Disney’s “Encanto”

Spoilers ahead for Disney’s Encanto! Highly recommend watching this phenomenal movie. It is a trove of mental health representation and self-care. 

Disney’s Encanto is vibrant and refreshing with new characters and concepts. Instead of another sequel, spin-off or live action film, we’re treated to a tale full of family, magic, love, drama (as there is in every family) with diverse personalities and strong female characters.

But that’s not all – Encanto also addresses the importance of mental health and self-care. Especially as the pandemic progresses, the mental toll of keeping up with current affairs and responsibilities has increased. The importance of balancing wellness with work, community and familial responsibilities is not often addressed in our lives.  

This movie presents these subjects through the cast of strong Colombian women and their relationships with one another, from the main character, Mirabel Madrigal to our pseudo-antagonist Abuela Alma Madrigal.  

Mirabel is the symbol of self-confidence and self-love. She is introduced to us as the family outlier – the only Madrigal without a magical gift that benefits the community.  

Throughout the movie, she battles against being defined by her lack of magic. It is through conversations with her sisters and meeting her exiled uncle, Bruno, that she realizes she is not alone in feeling pressured by the family name and the expectations that come with it. 

Her compassion and empathy towards her sisters’ inner woes are what help them break through the confines of their role within the family and the community. They learn to express and love themselves, motivated by Mirabel’s support and empathy towards their inner turmoil.  

I believe that Mirabel’s kind and empathetic nature is her magical gift. Not only does it help her family and community, but it also demonstrates confidence in individuality. We are all special in our own ways and destined for our own form of greatness and success, even if it does not fit societal standards or confines.  

Similarly, the character development of the other sisters teaches us the importance of self-expression. Luisa, the oldest and strongest sister, is perceived as unbreakable and always offering a helping hand. Isabela, the second oldest, embodies the idea of perfectionism as she compares herself to a set of standards that Abuela and the community expect from her. They both learn to take time off from work to pursue hobbies, exercise, relax, connect with nature or just take a long-needed nap. 

Likewise, Mirabel’s mother, Julieta Madrigal, is a character with much to learn from regarding mental health support. Mirabel receives unrelenting support and appreciation from her mother. It is repeatedly shown that no matter what the other members of the Madrigal family or the community say, Julieta always reassures her youngest daughter that she is special in her own way.

This might not seem very significant, but it absolutely is. Having stable and loving parental support is a game changer, an important key in healthy mental development over one’s childhood and adolescence. Julieta’s actions are a good template for how to support and care for a loved one’s mental health. Encanto’s depiction of mental health and modes of healing is quite beneficial in paving the way for reducing mental health stigma and promoting empathy. Giving this colorful and poignant movie another watch definitely wouldn’t hurt, especially not the catchy and moving narrative soundtrack that ties it all together so perfectly.

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