Sunday, 10 October 2010

Beautiful Minds

'A Beautiful Mind' to date has got to be my favourite film about anyone suffering from Mental Illness, but not because it reminds me I'm not alone in having suffered psychosis, but because it demonstrates how even a permanent and difficult medical condition can be accepted, lived with and controlled.

Like many of us with mental health problems it illustrates first our denial that it's happened to us, through resistance to acceptance and treatment. Unlike so many other films on mental illness which play to the salaciousness of mainstream tastes (sensationalism and horror) concerning such conditions, it goes beyond the problem and firmly states there is still valuable and worthwhile life beyond it.

Not just surviving, but enjoying living and embracing it to the full including loving relationships and achievement in work. To me, its message is as much about telling the world that the mentally ill shouldn't be written off as is shown in John Nash's personal story. And what a story...

John Nash is a mathematician, not an artist cutting off his ear; not a writer, sculptor, composer or musician. That's a breakthrough when it comes to stories of the mentally ill in my opinion, which is another reason why it's so special to me. As a society we've almost come to expect real talent to come from people who are seen as 'disturbed' in artistic and creative disciplines. In reality it happens just as often to people who are not involved in creative disciplines.

It highlights too the incorrect assumption that often happens namely that once ill, the sufferer should avoid things they have a passion for when in fact it is control that's needed, not abstinence.

Finally, 'A Beautiful Mind' resonates with me on a very personal level. Unlike John Nash, I have never heard voices or conjured up people from my imagination. However I do recall seeing and writing codes all the time and everywhere; and of mistaking innocent people who were just going about their normal daily routines as sinister characters following and spying on me. It got so bad that I even started to believe that cameras and tape recorders had been placed in my house though I could never find them.

It's a terrifying world to try and live in, the most frightening experience of my life and one I shall never forget albeit that it was very brief in my case (3 months). When I think of that time now, it makes me wonder why I've ever felt nervous or worried by anything since.

In the film, John Nash does hear and see things, which deepens my respect and admiration for him and those who suffer like him. When in hospital I met a lady who constantly heard a very angry man shouting at her, and watched her struggle to resist his instructions to throw herself under a train - it takes a person of exceptional courage and resolve to learn to live a 'normal' life with that going on in their heads. It takes time and a lot of support to learn how to.

Those who are not mentally ill, never like thinking about it unless they have to. They should be aware that there is no logical reason why mental illness couldn't happen to them - why wouldn't it? The brain is just another organ in the body. It is susceptible to all manner of illness and disease.

I can better understand now, that hearing voices and seeing imaginary people is only a minor glitch in how that person's brain is wired, but one which results in profound difficulties for them. Somehow such sufferers have little or no ability to distinguish between the inner monologue of their consciousness (which we all have - we call it thoughts) and imagination (which we also all have).

John Nash's story illustrates an amazing life, but it is only one of many such stories; most are relatively speaking of no interest to many as their lives do not lead to extraordinary achievements. Yep, if you haven't seen "A Beautiful Mind", do so. It is, in its own way, as important an educational film as "Schindler's List".

Another favourite of mine is "Shine" for very similar reasons, however I will leave you to explore it's delights for yourselves. For other films on mental illness, there is of course, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", "Frances" and "Miss Monday" but they do not provide the sense of hope that"Shine" and "A Beautiful Mind" do. In the case of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and"Frances" they are also totally outdated; good historic examples of past forms of mental health care, but thankfully it has improved immensely since those times.

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree about "A Beautiful Mind" - I found it very moving and beautifully and sensitively done.


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