Movies always have a way of offering an escape from reality; a chance to jump into the fantasies of another world or adventure. This year’s oscar nominees for best picture were full of daring heroes, magical creatures, and 19th century settings. One of these nominees stood out, however, for a very different reason; it was realistic. Even though Silver Linings Playbook didn’t win best picture this year it was definitely one of my favorites, not because it took me to a different world but because, in a way, it opened my eyes.
The film is based on two people dealing with mental illnesses. It shows the experience of the disorders from which many people try to hide and run from. In the movie, Patrick, played by Bradley Cooper, is shown to be returning after 8 months in a mental health institution. He’s seen to have a difficult time relating to friends and family, struggling with the myriad of prescribed medications, and being isolated from people around him who question his competence. This movie deftly reflects the everyday obstacles that are faced by people with mental disorders. In doing so, it also boldly dismantles the biggest obstacle of all: the stigma. The filmmakers did a good job in treating a serious subject with a bit of comic relief. This allows for more comfort in trying to understand the brain and it’s shortcomings. For as we try to get rid of the stigma associated with mental illnesses we need more discussion about it, and less shame by those who suffer from it. Realistic films like this help in removing the stigma and in turn help in properly diagnosing people. I think what I liked about the film the most was it’s honesty. While it ends with a “love conquers all” type of feel, it never underestimates the degree of difficulty that accompanies such disorders.
Recently, there has been some talk about mental illness as a result of the several shootings that took place last year. But as debates and conversations began to revolve around gun control, mental health began to lose precedence. We’ve seen the tragedy and loss of what happens when warning signs of mental illness are hidden out of discomfort or embarrassment. When people are not diagnosed they pose a risk to themselves and those around them. Many often go undiagnosed, just out of the fear of being seen as “crazy” or “insane.” People with mental illness need proper attention and treatment. Jennifer Lawrence, the film Oscar winning actress said in several interviews how it’s strange that when people have asthma they take asthma medicine, and when they have diabetes they take diabetes medicine but when someone has a mental illness suddenly taking medicine is seen as something to be ashamed of. She’s right, if someone has a disorder, whether it is genetic or acquired, don’t we want them to treat it? Stigmatizing those with mental illness only exacerbates their suffering. Denying the reality of a diagnosable and treatable disease is denying people the help that they need. For too long people didn’t (and sometimes still don’t) want to have these conversations. But this leaves people ignorant of the struggles of their peers, and this ignorance fuels the fire of stigma.
When people see this film, hopes are that they come away with more empathy for people and families struggling with mental illness. It’s important for people to realize that the millions of Americans suffering with such disorders are not lost or confused. They have the ability to get better, be happy and live fulfilling lives. As we’ve seen in the past, ignoring the signs puts more than just them at risk. And so, we need to open our eyes, minds and hearts to them so that they may feel accepted in our society and live to their full potential.