As mentioned many times on this blog, I am volunteer and supporter of Schizophrenia Awareness Association(SAA) in Pune, which is active in spreading awareness of schizophrenia and other related mental illnesses. I also work as facilitator for self help support group(SHSG) for care takers and also for people affected by mental illness. One of the challenges organizations like SAA face to eliminate misconceptions and misinterpretations of various incidents that take place in society involving so called mad people. The recent example are quite fresh in memory. One of them was involving a person taking charge of a passenger bus in Pune and driving rashly killing few people. This happened last year. The other one happened last month in Delhi where a person killed himself and family members.
The film media also has portrayed mental illness in different manners over the years. We all can share these depictions in Indian films and also western films, as we see them now and again. Mental illness or so called “abnormal behavior” is popular theme used in the films to draw attention.
I recently came across Diwali special edition of Marathi magazine titled Vishranti(विश्रांती), which was dedicated to mental illness. One of the articles was about the portrayal of mental illness in film media(which I translated here in English later). I do intend to do bigger blog on this topic, but here I can draw some quick examples. Many times we see characters depicted as mad or different to generate comedy. The villains also have been shown as having extreme mannerisms or attitude having shades of mental illnesses. But at the same time, we find movies portraying them in positive manner as well. Marathi movie Devrai(देवराई), Hindi movie Taare Jamin Par(तारे जमीन पर) are few examples. Mentally ill characters are also used to depict mystery or terror which is done in movies such as Psycho, Silence of Lambs. The famous Hindi movie Devdas(देवदास) contains depiction of depression and alcoholism.
But yesterday, I came across an interesting movie titled Don Juan DeMacro while surfing on the idiot box aka television. I did not watch the whole movie, but I can share the concept which is very different. Don Juan is a Spanish legendary character known as a womanizer, to the extent of loosing self control and displaying lunatic behaviors, popularized in Spanish literature since 15th century. So in this movie, a person who calls himself or thinks himself as Don Juan, undergoing consultation with a psychiatrist. The mental issue depicted here is that, that person is undergoing delusion where he thinks of himself as Don Juan. BTW, this person is portrayed by young Johnny Deep and he was very nice to watch. The problem lies further. It so happens that the psychiatrist gets involved in his story and his delusion as he narrates him during consulting sessions, where he draws parallels in his troubled and aging married life.
Now this is an interesting thought. And it underlines the very important aspect of people involved in giving care to mentally ill persons. And this is what is stressed as one of points to care takers who are part of our SHSG meetings. It is very natural that when care takers are living with personas with mental illness(PMI) people around them all the time, their so called “normal” behavior also can get impacted. It is very much possible to go to the extent of relating PMIs delusions, and other mental conditions, to ones personal life as well. And that can be devastating in the process of giving care and recovery path. Techniques such as REBT for care givers can be one way to get around this aspect.