The movie industry often has a bad reputation for creating biography movies. Oftentimes, the storyline is sensationalized to the point of deviance from reality. Majority of the producers’ concern is the number of the tickets sold justifying such acts as giving the public what they paid for.
In general, people watched movies to be entertained and to see something out of the ordinary or unusual. Mundane and routine theme stories aren’t so popular in the general arena. Despite these perceptions of the movie industry, mental health experts recognized the movie, “A Beautiful Mind” for creating awareness of schizophrenia to moviegoers and the society as a whole.
“Psychologists have often written about movies to make observation about different aspects of psychology—social behavior, psychological disorders, psychotherapy, etc.,” wrote Stephen “Skip” Dine Young, PhD. “The medium is vibrant, emotionally powerful and accessible.”
“A Beautiful Mind” is an Oscar-winning film released in 2001. It depicted a brilliant mathematician named John Nash who was played by Russell Crowe. Nash developed symptoms of schizophrenia when he was around 30 years old after he made significant contributions in the field of mathematics, an extension of game theory and math of decision making. As the disease progresses so does his symptoms, he had hallucinations and bizarre behaviors. Over the course of several decades, he was off and on anti-psychotic medications and in and out of hospitals. Later in his life, Nash claimed recovery from the disease without any medications. He attests these improvements to natural hormonal changes of aging. Research, done before medications for schizophrenia was available, revealed that about 20 percent of schizophrenic patients recovered on their own while the remaining 80 percent did not. Latest studies show better prognosis in the management of Schizophrenia when accompanied with antipsychotic medications.
Schizophrenia is a disturbance in thought processes further characterized by an inability to grasp reality accompanied by abnormal social behavior. The common symptoms identified with the condition are false beliefs, hearing or seeing things, decrease in social interaction, and emotional expression as well as lack of motivation.
“When non-normative experience is digested by an individual who is both creative and intelligent, a circumstance that is rare, the individual may emerge with a “beautiful mind” or an anomalous mind, at any rate, in terms of the fruition of new ideas,” wrote Ann Olson, PsyD. “However, it is a fact that thought may be useless when it is not associated with a genuine and strong respect for tradition, or the basic ideas and cultural climate from which and in which this thought emerges.”
According to studies, schizophrenia affects about 1% of the population. Oftentimes, individuals with schizophrenia have other mental disorder co-morbidity such as depression, anxiety or substance abuse disorders. The onset of the condition comes gradually beginning in young adulthood and may progress throughout one’s lifetime; however, there are also accounts of children with schizophrenia although considered as a rare occurrence. Despite many efforts to pinpoint the cause of the disorder, like any other mental illness, it is believed to be caused by numerous factors such as environmental living conditions, genetic predisposition, brain chemistry and structure, history of cannabis usage, certain infections, parental age and poor nutrition during pregnancy. The diagnosis of schizophrenia is based on observations on his behaviors, reported experiences of people around him and the patient’s personal experiences. There is no exact cause of the mental illness; the treatment goal is to focus on elimination of the symptoms of the disease.
“Lack of awareness of negative symptoms […] is common in individuals with schizophrenia,” wrote Dawn I. Velligan, PhD, and Larry D. Alphs, PhD. “Patients and relatives are often unaware of the extent of these symptoms and seldom communicate them to the clinician.”
Enduring chronic disorders such Schizophrenia can be heartbreaking not only to the patient but also to the family. It can be debilitating and frustrating to the point of seeking assistance in doing simple daily tasks such as taking a bath or eating. Having awareness on these topics might encourage everyone to focus on their mental health.