WHEN A PSYCHOSIS IS FUNNY ...and when mental illness is stigmatized

...and when mental illness is stigmatized

Part 1:

Analyze This is a 1999 gangster comedy film directed by Harold Ramis. He co-wrote the screenplay with playwright Kenneth Lonergan and Peter Tolan. The film starred Robert De Niro as a mafioso and Billy Crystal as his psychiatrist. A sequel, Analyze That, was released in 2002. I had the pleasure of watching these two comedy films about a mafia mobster who has a psychotic-break while in prison and several panic attacks outside prison. It was more than a dozen years, though, after these films were released before I watched them. That is the pattern now in the evening of my life. I have not been to the cinema in all the years of my retirement from paid-employment since back in 1999 when I lived in Western Australia. I wait, and eventually I can watch the movie on television.

Initially there was no plan to create a sequel to Analyze This, but the positive reaction generated by the first film encouraged the producers to consider a sequel and discuss it with the studio and actors. They believed, as Crystal put it, that: "There was an unfinished relationship between Ben Sobel and Paul Vitti, the psychiatrist and the mobster, from the first film" and "there was a good story to tell", so the sequel was commissioned. I leave it to readers with the interest to Google the story, the plot and the characters, the production and background details, the box office and reception/ratings the films received, the money which the films grossed, and all the who's whos.

Part 2:

In the last 50 years, since the first manifestations of bipolar disorder in my late teens, I have been stabilized on anti-depressants and anti-psychotics. In those same five decades, there have been an increasing number of films and TV series that deal with issues of mental health. I won't even try to summarize them all. They each deal, in their own ways, with specific disorders and, from time to time, with Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and the infancy and development of the psychoanalytic movement.

"Freud has never been more relevant," said David Cronenberg(1943- ) recently. Cronenberg is a Canadian filmmaker, screenwriter, and actor. He is one of the principal originators of what is commonly known as the body horror or venereal horror genre. "Because of Freud's understanding of what human beings are, and his insistence on the reality of the human body. We do not escape from that. Jung went into a kind of Aryan mysticism, whereas Freud was insisting on humans as we really are, not as we might want to be."2

Cronenberg points out in relation to some of his more extreme depictions of violence and sex, mental health issues and criminality that: "Different countries have different reactions to my depictions of somewhat extreme situations and topics..2 Some films are successful in some places; some not. What will play in Glasgow for three years non-stop will be taken off the air in a dozen or more Middle Eastern countries.......I'm interested in people who don't accept the official version of reality, but try to find out what's really going on under the hood."-Ron Price with thanks to 1Wikipedia, 7/2/'15; & 2Steve Rose, "David Cronenberg: Analyse this," The Guardian, 6 February 2012.

Part 3:

The psychotherapy used in these
movies, like that used in the TV
show, The Sopranos, raised all
sorts of questions about human
nature & morality; for example,
can a criminal mind be changed,
and committed to going straight?

What is the nature of a psychotic
break and can it be treated in the
short-term without medications &
therapy for years to come?.....Are
these portrayals of mental health
problems honest and accurate???

Ron Price 7/2/'15 to 9/2/'15.

Part 1:

I saw the 1993 movie Mr Jones at some time during the years when I was retiring from FT, PT and volunteer-work, 1999 to 2005, and retiring from an extensive involvement in Baha’i community life.1 I had had a working life of 50 years, 1949 to 1999, and been involved in the earliest years-decades of community-building for Baha’is in Canada and Australia.

I don’t remember now exactly when I first saw Mr Jones, but I watched the last half of that same movie last night.2 In the movie Jones was diagnosed with manic-depressive illness in his late adolescence. He had several hospitalizations over more than 20 years. I, too, was diagnosed with a variant of manic-depressive illness. It was called a "schizo-affective state" at first, but a dozen years later psychiatrists gave it the name bipolar disorder. Jones talked about his serious suicide attempt at college; I have had suicidal ideation or the death-wish, as it is also and sometimes called, for more than half a century from 1963 to 2015.

Part 2:

Watching this movie made me reflect on my own experience and the result is this prose-poem.-Ron Price with thanks to 1 The Universal House of Justice, April 1996; and 2Mr Jones, 7TWO TV, 10:40-1:00 a.m., 23 & 24 March 2012.

Richard Gere is a lovely fellow;
Lena Olin is even more lovely.1
But bipolar disorder is not-so-
lovely & needs to be watched
all of one’s life. After Gere &
Olin form the bond that ends
the two hour movie I wonder
what happened to him in his
middle age, late adulthood &
old age…Did he come to full
compliance on his meds; did
he have more talk therapy or
did his battle continue with a
win-win as one likes to think.

1these were the leading actors in this film

Ron Price
24/3/'12 to 9/2/'15.

Part 1:

If I were a Hollywood actor in the last fifty years (1965-2015), to say nothing of films in the last seventy(1945-2015) years of my life, I would be calling my agent to be on the lookout for roles in which I could play a mentally troubled character. Just about every possible disorder finds its place in at least several, if not one or two dozen, films in the decades since WW2.

If I listed all the films, not to mention the TV series containing mental disorders, which I've seen in those 70 years, this prose-poem would go on far too long. I will, though, list some of the disorders themselves: antisocial, avoidant and borderline personality disorders; histrionic, narcissistic, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorders; schizoid and schizoaffective personality disorders, inter alia. The list is legion, and the disorders I have mentioned are just a start.

Part 1.1:

I will list a few films I've seen since retiring from FT, PT and casual-work and enjoyed while on an old-age pension in the last decade: 2006 to 2015. Dustin Hoffman in the 1988 film Rain Man won an Academy Award for 'Best Actor in a Leading Role' for his portrayal of a man with autism; Kathy Bates earned her Oscar playing a woman with delusional disorder in Misery in 1990; the next year, Anthony Hopkins earned one for the role of a cannibal/serial killer, in the 2001 film Hannibal; in 1993 Holly Hunter was the mute heroine in the 1993 film, The Piano; 1994 produced Tom Hanks as the PTSD and mentally challenged but winning Forrest Gump; in 1995 there was the alcoholic-clinically depressed Nicholas Cage of Leaving Las Vegas; Geoffrey Rush won the Best Actor award in Shine for his 1996 performance as the schizoaffective pianist David Helfgott; 1997 was Jack Nicholson's turn in As Good As It Gets for doing obsessive compulsive disorder; James Coburn picked up his Oscar as the sadistic paranoid father in 1997's Affliction; and in 1999, Michael Caine was a narcotics addict and Angelina Jolie co-starred as a person with clinical depression or a sociopath of Girl, Interrupted. All of the following films featured BPD: Mr. Jones (1993), Pollock (2001), Sylvia (2003), Mad Love (1995), and Michael Clayton(2007).

Part 2:

Overall, the mass media do a poor job of depicting mental illness, with misinformation frequently communicated, unfavourable stereotypes of people with mental illnesses predominating, and psychiatric terms used in inaccurate and often offensive ways. People’s information and knowledge of mental health subjects comes, for the most part, from television. TV often perpetuates the stigma and the negative stereotypes by inaccurate depictions, misinformation and uninformed dramatic sketches. This has been part of the world of the mentally ill for centuries and it has been part of the backdrop of my own experience in these several epochs.
In some ways it is difficult to appreciate how far society has come in its knowledge and understanding; in other ways the problems are massive and complex. The list of activities performed by people and various organizations dedicated to struggle against stigma, though, is not only impressively long and wide-ranging, but provokes strong inspiration as well.

The year 1981, for example, was proclaimed the International Year of Disabled Persons (IYDP) by the United Nations. It called for a plan of action with an emphasis on equalization of opportunities, rehabilitation and prevention of disabilities. The theme of IYDP was "full participation and equality", defined as the right of persons with disabilities to take part fully in the life and development of their societies, enjoy living conditions equal to those of other citizens, and have an equal share in improved conditions resulting from socio-economic development. By 2008 there were 3,900 athletes from 146 countries in Beijing at the paralympics. Although this extended discussion of the disabled portrayed in films and the disabled in sport is tangential to my BPD story, it is relevant to mention, en passant.

Part 3:

The illness I had suffered from, starting perhaps at my conception in 1943, had become, in some ways, a source of claim to fame. But it was not all a story of a new age of understanding. On television, that most popular story-teller in modern society, people negotiated their attitudes to and their understandings of different social and political issues of which mental illness/distress was but one. The most common disability portrayed on television during the years that my autobiography was being written, 1984-2015, has been mental illness/distress.
end of document


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