I watched “A Beautiful Mind” as a part of my assignment during my internship last month. And that simple assignment changed my entire mindset and understanding of mental health disorders especially, schizophrenia. You might be wondering how a movie can be so inspiring that I am dedicating an entire blog to it. Let’s find out!
The movie is about a genius mathematician, John Nash, who won the Nobel Prize for his work in game theory in 1994. What is inspiring about this is that John was suffering from a mental health disorder called schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a debilitating disease and is sometimes referred to as the cancer of the brain.
Schizophrenic patients have delusions (a disorder of thoughts) and hallucinations (a disorder of perception). The hallucinations can be auditory or visual, depending on the severity of the illness. Schizophrenia is a psychotic spectrum disorder.
What that movie portrays and how you experience various emotions as the movie progresses is something phenomenal.
But today I will share my insights as someone who has seen mental health patients in real life and will talk about more than just what you see when you see a mental health patient.
A Beautiful Mind is a movie about hope. It is a movie about not knowing that you have a mental health issue and trying to conquer the world, to getting to know about it and doing it anyway. When John found out about his illness, he was disheartened and clueless for some time. He was suffering so much that the only family member he had — his wife — almost left her in the movie (she did leave him in real life, but later they got back together after a few years).
When someone has a mental health issue, it is not just that one person who suffers; the people around that person and their loved ones suffer too. My experience with the people who come with the patients (informants) has been one of a kind. A lot of them deny that there is an illness to begin with. But, over the period of time they accept it and learn to live with it. The belief and the hope that their loved one can get better is all that keeps them going.
What Is the motivation?
To be honest, the therapy and psychometric tests are so expensive that I used to wonder, even as an intern, that why the patient’s family members are paying so much for him/her when they know that he/she will not improve immediately. It can take months or even years for that to happen, so why are they so determined to seek treatment and spend so much money?
The answer was simple—the hope and belief that their loved one could get better and could actually go back to the pre-morbid level (before the symptoms of illness started).
And when I actually started looking from the perspective of an informant, my entire thought process about the patients changed.
This particular thing I noticed after watching the movie. A lot of times, we isolate mental health issues to just the patient who has them. But in reality, a lot of people are affected by it—the family members of the patient, their colleagues, and society in general.
Though the movie exaggerated a few symptoms in John Nash that did not exist in real life, it presented a realistic picture of how Schizophrenic patients suffer.
More Than Just A Mental Health Patient
What I came to realise is how much the patients actually suffer in reality. What we see-the psychotic symptoms, the eccentric behaviour, etc.-is a by-product of the mental and emotional turmoil those patients feel on a frequent basis. It may seem funny and comical to a few, but when you see the tense faces of their family members, it all just breaks your heart. And maybe that is why psychology students are advised to actually see the reality of mental health disorders and their treatment through internships.
It was a life-changing experience all my other classmates and I. This past month opened my eyes and strengthened my decision to be a part of this field of psychology even more.
The Power of Love And Support
When a person suffers from a mental health disorder, their minds become chaotic and cloudy. Some of them face inferiority issues, some may feel the urge to self-harm, others may feel like projecting their emotions onto their loved ones, and so on.
Hence, they seek psychological (therapy) and pharmacological (medicine) help. But it is usually not enough. Mental health patients are prone to regress to earlier treatment stages if their environment is chaotic and non-supportive.
I saw my mentor counselling the parents or spouse of the patient who used to come to the clinic so that they know that their behaviour can help or worsen the patient’s progress. In many cases, we see that a loving and supportive family and friends make the healing process really easy and sometimes quick too.
And this was not just true in the movie; it also happens in real life! When you give someone a space filled with all the support, care, and love to heal and recover, it works wonders.
Schizophrenia is a psychotic spectrum disorder and has common symptoms like delusions and hallucinations, and there are many more symptoms to look out for, which we will discuss when we talk about specific disorders in later posts.
A beautiful mind is a template of the emotional roller-coaster that the lives of people who suffer from any mental health disorder are. This movie doesn’t just focus on the patient but also helps us understand the issues that their loved ones face. You may or may not like the movie, but you cannot deny the plight of the mental health patients, which is very real and disheartening. And you can also understand the issues and problems that patients with other types of mental health disorders (apart from schizophrenia) go through.
The hope and love that people show to patients can be life-changing for them. It only happens when you look beyond the disorder and see a human who is actually suffering. The love and support that you give to a mental health patient can change their lives for the best. It can really help speed up their treatment and healing.