Mental Illness and Movies
by: Ryan (DeepBlueCalm)
Movies capture the imagination. They allow us to put our
arms around abstract ideas and feelings, embrace them, and make them real. They
offer insight into the soul.
Despite the real intensity of mood swings bipolar people face, communicating
these feelings to a non-bipolar person can be difficult. Wonderful support
groups and Web forums such as this one exist to promote sharing and
understanding, yet it’s not possible to see the world through manic eyes without
living it. Someone who has never felt manic electricity flowing through their
body or seen the complex patterns and connections that we do cannot truly
understand it like we do. Conversely, although depression is more common,
someone who has never experienced it has a difficult time seeing the world
through dark-colored glasses.
Movies can bridge that gap and make mental illness more accessible. They are not
a substitute for real sensory experience, but they visually portray concepts
that would otherwise be impossible to recreate.
A Beautiful Mind (2002), starring Russell Crowe and
Jennifer Connelly as John and Alicia Nash expertly illustrates a world of
psychosis through John Nash’s eyes. It makes paranoid delusions and
hallucinations real in a way the audience can understand. Speaking as
someone who has experienced severe delusions, they imitate the real thing.
Several other popular films have been made on other mental disorders,
As Good As It Gets, 1997 (Obsessive-compulsive disorder)
Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt
Good Will Hunting. 1997 (Oppositional Disorder) Matt
Damon, Robin Williams
Shine, 1996 (Schizophrenia) Geoffrey Rush
Rain Man, 1988 (Autism) Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 1975 (Psychiatric Hospital) Jack Nicholson
Sybil, 1976 (Multiple Personality Disorder) Sally Field, Joan Woodward
Bipolar disorder is conspicuously absent from the
list. Not since 1993 has a film clearly on the topic of bipolar disorder made
it to the big screen.
Can you name it?
That year, Mr. Jones, starring Richard Gere as a classic manic-depressive person
and Lena Olin as his psychiatrist was made. Though the film successfully
illustrates mania from a third-person perspective, it makes the ethical error of
introducing a romantic relationship between patient and psychiatrist.
This movie was universally disliked by critics.
Other films exist, but brush over the topic and fail to
portray the illness dramatically in a real and compelling way. This means one
thing to manic-depressive people out there -- we need to start writing!
Putting thoughts and ideas into words through writing can be a tremendously
therapeutic tool. Plus writing is inexpensive, self-initiated and flexible.
Traditional forms of writing therapy, including journal therapy, letter therapy
and poetry therapy, allow people to explore their innermost thoughts and
Screen writing is similarly therapeutic. The roles we play
in our stories tell us about our lives. Screen writing allows us to delve
into our unconscious mind, free repressed feelings and discover our weaknesses.
Rewriting life stories can make over painful events and self-defeating
behaviors in meaningful ways that give a sense purpose. It permits us to move
toward positive change and growth.
Hollywood clearly has room for the next great movie on bipolar disorder. The
question is, “Who will have the drive, courage and determination to produce the
Sources Used for Article:
Writing Therapy on Whole Health MD -
UCLA Creative Arts and Healing Lecture Series
Comments about this article?
Please write directly to Ryan at the email address provided at the top of the