Getting a Better Understanding of Schizophrenia
I’m only two weeks into this semester, my fourth in a
seven-semester program, and I can already tell it will be the most challenging
to date. I’m taking on two clinical classes for the first time, which means two
hospitals and twice the amount of lab hours.
Overall, my two classes amount to 10 credits, which is funny to me,
because as a full-time Communication undergrad I actually had one semester with
only 12 credits and that was without a day job (boy, life was easy at 21).
I’m taking Mental Health and Pediatrics this time out, and
the plan is to do seven weekends in a psych hospital followed by seven weekends
in a children’s hospital. My psych rotation starts next weekend, but in
preparation for it, my school had us watch a slew of videos and hosted
discussions on various ways to treat and care for psych patients. In many ways
it was a slog to sit through (I don’t care what the topic is, eight hours of
videos and discussion is rough, and you can double down on that when the topic
can be as depressing as psych can sometimes get).
That said, it was definitely a worthwhile experience, and
one of the videos, the 2006 documentary Out of the Shadows, was so
moving that I felt compelled to blog about it.
Directed by Susan Smiley, Out of the Shadows
chronicles the trials and tribulations the filmmaker and her family experience
related to her mother Millie’s paranoid schizophrenia. It looks at both the
personal issues faced by the Smiley family, as well as offering a critique on
the madness of the public health system.
The documentary, which aired on PBS six years ago, is
undeniably powerful and it certainly gave me a new perspective on paranoid
schizophrenia. My only prior experience with the disease was through the filter
of A Beautiful Mind, which was certainly moving, but Hollywood-ized.
Seeing the real story of the Smileys, the pain on their faces, and, in some
instances, the dignity Millie is sometimes able to muster… it took my
understanding to a whole new level.
Frankly, I can’t get the film out of my mind, and I
think it was a great primer for my upcoming clinical, as well as a viewing
experience I’d recommend to anyone. For a bit more on the film, check out this
article on the National Alliance for Mental Illness Web site.