The Sopranos tackled many important American and human traits. The highlights of how violence can bend a family, and the mental toll that it takes is very insightful. On top of that there is a strong consequence for every single act of violence within the show. When there is death, even if it isn't a physical change, the heroes exhibit a mental one.
Yes, the Sopranos open an important conversation about machismo and mental illness, because there are not many television shows that are able to approach the topic. It often takes one show or person that is willing to go there, for example, Ellen who came out as homosexual. The Sopranos should be applauded for being willing to discuss these topics.
The Sopranos opened important conversations about mental illness and that it is OK to discuss it when one of the stars of the show acknowledged that members of his family and friends have dealt with mental illness. For a personality of his popularity to discuss something so personal, it gives other people more confidence in getting help for themselves or for family members or friends.
The Sopranos was not clearly defined as a series about mental illness, but it certainly is a show about machismo and masculine identity, although it has permeated pop culture as a celebration of these things rather than something that started a discussion. Many celebrate Tony Soprano and are not aware that he is a villainous character.
I have not heard much public debate regarding the Sopranos and Machismo and mental illness. Whenever someone brings up the tv show, they just talk about how good it is but I have never heard them go into depth about mental illness. The show is not widespread enough to change things.