By: Dani Kessel
[Disclaimer: This article discusses mental health topics. I am not a mental health professional. I do not claim to be an expert. All my writing on mental health topics is based on my own education, my personal experience, researching the topics, reading studies, and fact-checking. I can only provide so much information though. I always advise that you seek out a therapist or psychologist for professional help.]
[SPOILER ALERT: This post has major spoilers for Frozen 2. If you have not seen the film and do not want spoilers, watch the film BEFORE reading this article.]
When Frozen 2 came out, it got a lot of heat for being “too dark.” As proof, people pointed to the song “The Next Right Thing” which Anna sings after Olaf and Elsa die. In this song, Anna expresses her struggle with grief, sadness, and situational depression. She is clearly falling apart, but she knows she needs to keep going. So, she sings about how she’s breaking things down into the smallest possible steps and going one at a time.
Give it a listen, yourself:
It is a complex, difficult, emotional song. But, the song discusses very real feelings experienced by many. Unlike other Disney movies, which tend to skip over the healing of trauma, it lets us live in this painful moment with Anna. That’s what people need.
I, and many other adults who have been through difficult times, cried our eyes out watching this in the theater. It hit really close to home. I know what it feels like to be empty, hopeless, cold, lost. I know what it’s like to grasp at any one small thing I can to keep me going. Others said, through this song, they actually felt seen for the first time. YouTube comments on the various videos of this song talk about how they previously went through really hard times and could’ve used a song like this to help them through.
But it isn’t just for adults. Despite people claiming otherwise, kids need this song too. Kids experience loss, pain, depression, and mental illness just like adults do. But, we often assume they will bounce back without any difficulties because they’re kids. That’s dismissive of the very complex feelings that young people face. That’s dismissive of the kids who have lost someone in their lives. That’s dismissive of the 10-20% of children who have ongoing issues with their mental health (and that doesn’t take into account that mental illness is underreported and underdiagnosed). It also leads many kids to feel isolated.
This song brings a new, healthier conversation to the table.
It teaches kids that negative feelings are real, which is important even if a kid isn’t experiencing it themselves. It teaches kids that they aren’t alone. A person they look up to and respect, a Disney princess/queen, is experiencing this. It reminds people of all ages not to give up, even when things are bleak. It tells people that their struggles are valid. It offers a coping mechanism that many therapists recommend–breaking activities down into smaller, more manageable steps.
And most importantly, it starts a really necessary conversation.
Mental health is still largely stigmatized, and media, like this song, will help break that down for the next generation.
I think we all really needed “The Next Right Thing.” I know it was meaningful to a lot of people. What did you think of the mental health messages in Frozen 2? Were you glad to see the real emotions of trauma and grief? If you have kids, what kind of conversations did this trigger? Let me know down in the comments section!