A Champion for Mental Wellness: Sanaa Lathan's Advocacy in Film


Oct. 7 2023, Updated 3:19 a.m. ET

In the world of Hollywood, with its red carpets, movie premieres, and hidden truths, Sanaa Lathan is like an angel who has come to earth to highlight mental health advocacy and education.

Aside from glamour and fame, some of Sanaa’s movie roles deal with mental health issues, which are often stigmatized.

Sanaa Lathan's Pioneering Role in ‘Love & Basketball’

In the early 2000s, Sanaa Lathan made waves with her portrayal of Monica Wright in the iconic film Love & Basketball. While the movie may be celebrated for its portrayal of love, passion, and sportsmanship, it subtly delves into the intricacies of mental health.

Monica is just an illustration of the struggles that many people suffering from depression (or any other health problems) go through daily, with its uncountable highs and lows.

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Monica’s resilience and determination relate to the audience and open access to the discussion of mental health. The careful portrayal by Lathan evokes sympathy among viewers as they realize the emotional aspects that come along with people with mental illnesses.

Sanaa Lathan in ‘Something New’ and the Mental Health Stigma

In the romantic comedy-drama Something New, Sanaa takes on the role of Kenya McQueen, a successful professional navigating the complexities of love and societal expectations. Buried underneath the pleasant concept of this movie is a careful unraveling of the stereotype surrounding mental illness.

The pursuit of love, and how it fits in with societal conventions of mental health, is what Kenya’s story reflects. The movie demonstrates how Lathan personifies and embodies the situation. This exposes the effect that negative societal attitudes have on the mind.

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Sanaa Lathan's Powerhouse Performance in ‘Nappily Ever After’

In the thought-provoking film Nappily Ever After, Sanaa steps into the shoes of Violet Jones, a woman on a quest for self-discovery and acceptance. Besides the idea of embracing natural beauty, the movie sensitively describes the psychological impacts of social standards vs. individual desires.

Violet’s journey towards loving herself, after she cuts and shaves off all of her hair, serves as one of the most vivid representations of what is known as a healing process in mental health discourse.

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“One of my wishes always, when I was coming up in this industry, was that the Hollywood that I work in really represents the world that we live… I feel like we're making progress,” she told Entertainment Weekly.

By portraying authenticity, Sanaa breaks away from the belief that mental health is a medical issue only and stresses emotional wellness and self-awareness.

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Sanaa Lathan's Cinematic Contributions to Mental Health Talk

Mental health issues have traditionally been a topic usually hushed in society. Lathan’s roles in Love & Basketball, Something New, and Nappily Ever After are just some of the reasons she is a cine ambassador of mental health advocacy and awareness.

Through tactically untangling and portraying human sentiments in these movies, Sanaa contributed crucial dialogues on mental well-being with a vocabulary everyone can comprehend. Her roles represent how storytelling is powerful enough to transcend social bias, creating awareness for people with mental conditions.

Kudos to Sanaa Lathan who does more than just grace the silver screen to shine a much-needed light on neglected issues about mental problems. While at it, she proves that the best performance happens in people’s hearts and minds.

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