The Movies and Mental Illness

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“Silver Linings Playbook” is a movie that depicts mental illness with ease and grace. The forgiving and heartfelt style illustrates that there is hope for those whose lives are framed and defined by the sorrows of imprinted stigma. If you suffer from a mental disorder or know someone who does, then you also know that it is difficult to be seen beyond the diagnosis. This movie provides the backdrop to envision how one can integrate social normalcy, like being in a love relationship, with the struggles inherent in a mental illness diagnosis.

Learning to live with mental illness while being a full participant in the activities of daily living depends on the severity of the illness. Often while in the throes of an active episode, a person loses their sense of self and reality is the craziness that embeds itself while the invasion of the mind snatchers takes over. People who suffer do so in silence and in shame. Hidden away by family members, locked in asylums or taken out of the culture by their own accord, the many people who are dealt this raw hand are abandoned by themselves and by the world at large.

It is not uncommon to find a thread of mental illness in the family line. Often you hear about an Aunt or long forgotten Grandparent who were put away because of some unknown variable that caused them to act out in shameful behavior patterns.

How do we as a culture take the shame out of the illness? How do we temporize its power? The answer is clearly punctuated in this film that so poignantly illustrates a garden variety of mental illnesses. From Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder to Bipolar to Impulse Control, we see how it is possible that the familial environment can be a trigger for an illness that could lie dormant if other factors were not involved. We are invited to understand that the family where the illness births can be the very family where it heals.

What is a Silver Lining? “It is a comforting or hopeful aspect of an otherwise desperate or unhappy situation” (Webster’s Dictionary)  How do you find hope when all you can see is hopelessness?  Getting out of the box that contains the germ of mental illness is not only difficult, but quite scary. It takes the support and belief from others that you do not have to be defined by your mental illness.

Imagine if the young man who went wild in Newtown, Connecticut had gotten the help he needed? Would the outcome be different?

“Silver Linings Playbook” begs us to awaken to the needs of the mentally ill.

I would like to hear from you.

If you have a mental illness what have your Silver Linings been?

If you know someone who deals with mental illness, what is their silver lining?

Comments

  1. Dennis says:

    Hey Edy. Great movie recommendation. I really respected Bradley Cooper’s character. He showed tremendous poise and restraint while in the company of a beautiful woman who also happened to be very vulnerable. Many men would have jumped at that opportunity! But he really liked her and knew neither of them were ready for that kind of intimacy. I felt in that was a Silver Lining. Mental illness can be lonely, very, very lonely. But it is also an chance to look deep inside, something that many others never do. To be closer in touch with your soul. When you have to dig deep you find a lot of things about yourself. While his character had many “flaws”, he dealt with them in a refreshing and endearing way. He was himself and didn’t hide any of his perceived flaws. I feel that by hiding your flaws, you are closing yourself off to life and possiblity. Eventually you’ve hidden them to the point that you cannot see them yourself. I spent a lot of my life trying to cover up what I felt were my shortcomings when embracing and accepting who you are is a big part of the healing process. The family dynamic in this film was refreshing as well. While they had their challenges, they didn’t hide who they were or what they were going through. They accepted each other which created a place where healing can happen.

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