Here’s Why Superheroes Are Good For Your Health
It turns out superheroes might just be the new kale of mental wellbeing—though let it be said we realize superheroes are much more universally loved than kale. In honour of Bell Let’s Talk Day 2018, InnerSpace reached out to Dr. Janina Scarlet, a licensed clinical psychologist at the Center for Stress and Anxiety Management in San Diego, California, to find out why we fangirls and boys should feel great about indulging our passion for superheroes.
In her practice, and detailed in her book Superhero Therapy, Dr. Scarlet incorporates sci-fi and fantasy into research supported therapies that have helped many people—including both active duty service members and civilians in the United States—recover from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses.
Patients may use a superhero’s origin story to inform their own journey towards recovery. For example, beneath the Batsuit and mask is Bruce Wayne, a man who lost both his parents at the age of eight, then used his grief to become the superhero we know and love. In therapy, Dr. Scarlet might bring up examples like Batman’s so clients can see how they may have experienced something similar. The client may examine Batman’s story to understand how they’d like their own recovery to play out.
So rather than compare oneself to the superhuman accomplishments of superheroes, the therapy aims to identify our weaknesses as our greatest strengths. Dr. Scarlet, in fact, shared her own personal story with us:
“For me, the superhero that I connect with the most is Storm from The X-Men. When I was 3 years old, my family and I were exposed to Chernobyl radiation and as a result my health was affected, and specifically when the weather would change, I would get extremely sick, I would get severe migraines, seizures, or non-stop nosebleeds for which I’d have to go to the hospital. The migraines and seizures have persisted and, because of that, for the longest time, I felt like a freak. I felt like I didn’t belong and it didn’t help being bullied when I was in school. When I first saw The X-Men movie, I had this very strong and immediate connection with Storm because Storm, like the rest of The X-Men, has a genetic mutation. And hers specifically allows her to have a connection with the weather. She’s able to control the weather and, although I can’t, I felt this connection with her […]. Her sense of courage, compassion and determination has really driven me, so she is my favourite superhero and someone I really look up to.”
Dr. Scarlet also spoke about the ways in which events like comic-con can have both mental and physical benefits to our health. She points to numerous studies that indicate how social connectedness is an excellent predictor of mental well-being, and in fact went on to say, “so what you guys are doing on InnerSpace is helping, not only you but also, a lot of your followers as well.”
So next time anyone gives you grief for fanning out over your favourite comic book or fantasy character, you can honestly tell them, you’re doing it for the good of your health.
Catch InnerSpace weeknights at 7 e 4p and catch our full interview with Dr. Scarlet below.
On Bell Let’s Talk Day, Bell will donate more towards mental health initiatives in Canada, by contributing 5¢ for every applicable text, call, tweet, social media video view and use of our Facebook frame or Snapchat filter.