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Oyinlola "Lola" Adeyanju
College of Pharmacy delegate
University of South Florida
College of Pharmacy
PharmD. Candidate of 2016

Thea Moore, PharmD, BCPP
Associate Professor
Department of Pharmacotherapeutics and Clinical Research
University of South Florida College of Pharmacy

Call Me Crazy: A Five Film is a 2013 drama featuring five short films about different psychiatric disorders; schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Three of the five movies are interwoven, with character(s) from one of the other films reappearing, which provides increased perspectives regarding the world of mental illness.

Lucy

The movie starts off by portraying some background to how Lucy (Brittany Snow) arrived at the psychiatric facility. It showed the impact of schizophrenia from the patient’s perspective and elaborated on how the society views people with schizophrenia. The primary symptoms displayed in the movie through portrayal of an acute psychotic episode are auditory hallucinations “hearing voices”, tremors, ringing in the ears, and feelings of being trapped (delusional thought content). Sometimes these voices were negative and derogatory. She had a conversation with her love interest about what the voices were like. She clarified that they are not in her head but instead come from outside and may be a single voice or multiple voices which cannot be sorted out from her own thoughts. Besides being told that Lucy is diagnosed with schizophrenia and the portrayal of the hallucinations, primarily we saw positive symptoms of the disorder with her being agitated and combative during an acute psychotic episode, which led to her being restrained and medicated. The portrayal of this psychotic episode was intense. We learned that this psychotic episode was preceded by Lucy stopping her medications to prove that her psychiatrist, Dr. Nance (Octavia Spencer) was wrong about her diagnosis. She also suffered from anger and disappointment towards her sister. She is saddened at her sister’s refusal to visit her in the mental institution or group session, especially remembering how she cared for her sister when she got her appendix taken out at a younger age. The short film challenges some of the stereotypes of schizophrenia when the lead character laments about the things she will never be able to do in life and asserts that “people with schizophrenia aren’t lawyers, they’re bag ladies” and the psychiatrist encourages her to “prove them wrong” and finish law school. Lucy’s love interest, one of her group members, also informed her that what the voices are telling her “sucks.”

Grace

This film presents the perspective of a child/daughter, Grace (Sarah Hyland) dealing with a parent’s bipolar disorder, mom Robin (Melissa Leo). It described the impact of bipolar illness on a child and how the child often felt responsible for the parent. She talked about having two moms - her real mother and the pretend one she shared with friends. Her mother’s predicament may have also been worsened by the fact that her dad left them, possibly translating to a lesser support system for her mom. Grace felt alarmed and saddened when she came home one time and found the whole house shuttered. She went to let in some light and her mother yelled at her for doing so. Another manic episode happened at the grocery store when her mother was giving/marketing fabric softener, and overly doting on Grace in a public display of affection (PDA) manner. In another scene, her mom was almost arrested at a mall for dumping goldfish in the fountain while out with Grace and her friends. She ran from the mall, started driving erratically and exhibited risky behavior by racing a group of young men. Grace’s friends yelled at her, calling her mother an “official lunatic” and “crazy” when she confessed that her mom “is bipolar.” Her best friend is however supportive, telling her she can’t save her mother and watch her do this over and over again. The mother is placed in inpatient treatment and promised to take all of her pills. The film ends on a high note, with Grace stating, “I didn’t cause her disease, I can’t control it and I can’t cure it” as she gains awareness of her limitations in dealing with her mother’s mental illness. She concludes by writing about her mother as the hero of her story for a college essay.

Allison

This film presents the perspective of growing up as the sibling of a person with schizophrenia and how the illness impacted her life. This was well portrayed by Allison (Sofia Vassilieva) who discussed how the parents couldn’t focus on her because of the issues with her sister Lucy (Brittany Snow) the protagonist from the first film. She became angry at her mum for inviting her sister with schizophrenia, Lucy to visit home at the same time she brings her boyfriend, Luke (Ken Baumann) home to her parents for the first time. Luke questioned why all of the doors are removed and was sympathetic toward Lucy when it was explained that Lucy has schizophrenia. Luke is stunned by Allison’s attitude toward her sister. She shared how her “loving sister,” Lucy tried to kill her by strangling her with her own nightgown. Lucy explained that the smoke detector told her to do so. This event occurred behind closed doors. Since then, her parents removed the doors from the house whenever Lucy was around. Allison felt neglected because Lucy’s sickness dominated every moment of their lives such as her missed soccer games and mom’s inability to get out of bed for days or weeks. When Lucy was hospitalized, Allison recalled to her boyfriend that the whole family was happy, and that they felt like a family. The film demonstrated how a sibling often feels that everything revolves around the “sick” child. However for Allison, her anger/resentment towards Lucy was also driven by the fear of becoming like Lucy. The film showed that Lucy felt abandoned by her sister whom she noted never came to visit her while she was hospitalized.  Yet, we are also made to understand Allison’s fear of also having a mental illness.  This film depicted the stress burden caregivers/family members go through when taking care of and living with a family member with mental illness. This could be a very useful discussion tool in a setting with adolescents or young adult siblings of persons with schizophrenia or other mental illness for NAMI.

Eddie

This film described a comedian named Eddie (Mitch Rouse) who suffered from major depressive disorder. His wife, Julie (Lea Thompson) found his illness difficult to understand because he has so much going for him, and he is loved. However, his therapist, Dr. Beckett (James Avery) informed her “depression is not circumstantial. Eddie is not choosing to feel this way.” An educational moment occurred when Julie met with the psychiatrist and realized Eddie hasn’t been going to therapy. The psychiatrist told her that it was not anything that she was doing and pointed to the fact that depression is “not situational.” The movie showed some of his depressive symptoms, which were social withdrawal, skipping work, dark comedy, experiencing suicidal ideation – writing suicide notes and planning to overdose on his current medications, labile mood and affect, and hypersomnia with decreased appetite, lack of interest, decreased energy and psychomotor slowing. Although he seemed nonchalant about illness initially, his attitude changed by the end of the movie. He broke down when he saw his wife with an envelope that included a suicide note and pills he had stockpiled. He was willing to acknowledge his illness and get help. He was also open to restarting his therapy as demonstrated by the film ending with Eddie and his wife waiting outside of the therapist’s office.

Maggie

In the final film, the subject, Maggie (Jennifer Hudson) can vividly experiences flashbacks (re-experiencing) which are characteristic of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Her PTSD stemmed from a sexual trauma in which she was repeatedly raped by a well-known person, her family friend who is also her senior officer in the army. She also exhibited the sleep issues that are characterisitc of PTSD. While sleeping one day, she dreamed of the rape. She was trying to fight her way out of it but woke up, attacking her dad who was trying to wake her up. Her son witnessed this incident and called 911. This led to her losing custody of her child. The film also portrayed the fact that drinking and substance abuse are commonly comorbid with the other primary symptoms of PTSD. Maggie appeared to suffer from survivor guilt as well as PTSD when she exclaimed that her issues are not combat-related and that, she has her arms and legs and is not wheelchair-bound. A common misperception is thinking that PTSD only relates to combat. This revealed that PTSD from sexual trauma is an issue worth understanding just like combat-related PTSD. The viewer saw and understood Maggie’s concern about the stigma and the consequences of admitting that she has a mental illness. However, her lawyer, Lucy (Brittany Snow) empathized with her from the perspective of a person with mental illness. She counseled Maggie of the need to acknowledge her illness, and realize it was not her fault. She performed motivational interviewing, in which her son was the main reason to get help. She told Maggie that she could live a normal life as long as she is compliant with her treatment, as she (Lucy) is a good testimony of it. Her son even said multiple times that he would like to have his mama back. At the trial, Lucy informed the judge that Maggie has acknowledged her disease, and is ready to get treatment. However, she would need her support system, which is her family including her son.

Conclusion

The overall film is very hopeful in that it portrays mental illness from many perspectives but also demonstrates that we should strive to understand mental illness as a society rather than stigmatize those with mental illness. Lucy’s description of what it takes to stay well and commit to recovery: going to group therapy, checking-in with psychiatrist and taking medications despite their side effects is a good testament that recovery is possible and “there is hope” for a full life for those with mental illness.

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