Category Archives: PSYCHIATRY

Milos Forman: From a bug bite in war-torn Czechoslovakia to the Cuckoo’s Nest

There is one thing every single actor, director, and movie person have in common; they were all bitten by this certain “bug.” This results in an insatiable itch to do whatever it takes to make it in the movie business.

As a researcher for Movies on My Mind, I spend many hours reading about movie makers and never fail to learn when and how they get bitten by this peculiar “bug.”

Milos Forman, bitten by the bug

This month’s movie is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and its director, Milos Forman, is my assignment. I knew I was making progress when I came across the very moment Forman knew he was going to dedicate his working life to the film industry. Continue reading Milos Forman: From a bug bite in war-torn Czechoslovakia to the Cuckoo’s Nest

One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest: Evil Nurse Ratched

Let me just say this first—Jack Nicholson’s performance in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is absolutely mesmerizing. His astonishing portrayal of R.P. McMurphy is a reason One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest stays with you long afterwards.

Nurse Ratched, the character that actress Louise Fletcher made bigger than the movie itself, is another reason this movie stays long in your mind. I knew Nurse Ratched Continue reading One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest: Evil Nurse Ratched

Side Effects of Civilizing

An entertaining movie with unpredictable twists, Side Effects (Soderbergh, 2013) had me thinking. It is certainly representative of our times, when so many people are on medication. It came to mind, then, what others have proposed—that some of our difficulties may be unintended consequences of introducing new technologies into our daily lives, i.e., side effects of civilizing (Cowan, 1983; Brynjolfsson, 1993).

Why do so many people need medication today?

In all areas over the past two centuries, mankind has made mind-blowing advancements—especially in technology and healthcare. Our lives are more convenient than ever before with all that the world has to offer at our fingertips. So, why do so many people need medication Continue reading Side Effects of Civilizing

In Texas, Is a Rose Still a Rose?

In Texas, people usually like to call a spade a spade. But, is a rose still a rose?

You may have heard on the news about a California man who was put under 72-hour psychiatric observation when it was found he owned 100 guns and allegedly had 100,000 rounds of ammunition stored in his home. The house also featured a secret escape tunnel.

By West Coast standards someone like this would be considered ‘mentally unstable.’ What California lacks is the proper perspective—as usual.

  • In Arkansas, he’d be called ‘a novice gun collector.’
  • In Utah, he’d be called ‘moderately well prepared,’ but they might reserve judgment until they made sure that he had a corresponding quantity of stored food.
  • In Kansas, he’d be ‘a guy down the road you would want to have for a friend.’
  • In Alabama, he’d be called ‘a likely gubernatorial candidate.’
  • In Georgia, he’d be called ‘an eligible bachelor.’
  • In North Carolina, Mississippi, and South Carolina, he would be called ‘a deer hunting buddy.’

And in Texas,
he’s just ‘Bubba, who’s a little short on ammo.’
—Anonymous

Coming from Texas myself, I get this.

Forwarded to me recently, I thought this email message was funny, but I also considered seriously the fact that people have a wide spectrum of notions about others whose behavior seems to them to be outside accepted social norms. Our movies this fall provide us an opportunity to examine evidence of such viewpoints that may have entered our minds through the work of filmmakers. The following is a comment on the first film in our series, Side Effects:

The depiction of the pharmaceutical industry in the film is accurate—and just because it’s accurate does not mean people will not take offense. But from my perspective as a psychiatrist, I think we should depict things in a realistic way. The only way that we will ultimately deal with the stigma of mental illness is to be more realistic, open and honest about the illness, its treatment and how it all works (Grigoryev, 2013).

REFERENCES

Grigoryev, Y. (2013). Psychiatrist Sasha Bardey discusses Hollywood’s Side Effects. Retrieved from https://blogs.nature.com/spoonful/2013/02/psychiatrist-sasha-bardey-discusses-hollywoods-side-effects.html

Soderbergh, S. (Director) (2013). Side Effects [Motion picture]. USA: Open Road Films (II).

Side Effects: In America, a Pill for Every Malady

The story in Side Effects reveals differences between Great Britain and America in attitudes toward medicine. In America, we want a pill for everything: a pill to lose weight, a pill to ease anxiety, a pill to focus, a pill to sleep, a pill to lower cholesterol, a pill to eradicate pain.

Pills are often talked about among teachers in break rooms, between parents on playgrounds, and among my fellow bridge players. Recently, as I was trying to concentrate on making a bid during an intense game, my playing partner was casually discussing a recent prescription.

Yet, we are all aware how addiction to certain prescription drugs have wrecked havoc on people’s lives. During a family friend’s college years, he received his Adderal medication, prescribed for ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), in the mail on a regular basis, which his mother disguised in mint wrappers. Otherwise, his fellow college students would be scrambling over the elixir of focus.

Members of my family are dependent on pills for various reasons, from ADHD to anxiety. My teenage granddaughter can name which of her friends take medication. Some private schools even mandate medication for enrollment of certain students. This is America, where pills, and the psychiatrists who prescribe them, are embraced with open arms.

British attitudes are different

England is different. The stiff upper lip is not a myth. Generally speaking, the British do not brazenly broadcast what medications they take or what psychiatrist they are currently seeing. While Americans openly seek referrals for psychiatrists to help better themselves, the British consider it more negatively as a sign of sickness.

British society appears to have little tolerance for individuals who fail to maintain their self-control, and there seems to be a tendency to label such individuals sick and in need of treatment. For example, while British psychiatrists seem less likely to label patients "sick" than psychiatrists of other countries, the symptoms that they tend to overemphasize are those that indicate the patient has lost self-control (Payer, 1988, p. 112-113).

This of course affects the career paths of psychiatrists in England as opposed to psychiatrists in America.

Director Steven Soderbergh relied on British actor Jude Law to portray this insane contrast between Brits and Americans in Side Effects, which starts with blood and gore, ends with tears, and jerks the audience in wild directions in between. The brilliant writing on a timely subject matter keeps the viewer intensely intrigued.

Pills required in today's world?

It is easy to broadly criticize, and shake your head at the sheer number of pills being prescribed in America today. However, there is no denying that these pills are effective, otherwise why are doctors prescribing them left and right? Certain people do need certain pills to function in today’s world, which is not a world for which the human species evolved. (Anthropology speak).

For example, only in recent history of mankind are children expected to sit in a classroom at a desk, focus on the teacher, and learn from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. five days a week. Many kids with ADHD are incapable of this. Thus, schools ask that these children be medicated to make the teachers’ jobs easier. This is medicating humans to adapt to today’s world.

Researchers believe that ADHD was actually an advantage hundreds of years ago when human beings needed the energy and easy distractibility to escape from predators and to migrate from place to place in search of food and shelter. There is a theory that the high incidence of ADHD in America stems from those in Europe who were "fiddle-footed" and willing to risk their lives to board a ship and sail across the Atlantic to the unknown. Maybe ADHD is still an advantage today as many high achievers have it and are able to channel it to their benefit. Channing Tatum, one of the stars in this movie is reported to have the condition (Nall, 2016).

It's the side effects that give people pause

Yet it’s the side effects that give people pause. Watching my husband agonize over leg pain that is a side effect of Lipitor, which is a pill to reduce cholesterol, gives me reason to address health issues with nutrition and exercise, rather than to automatically pop a pill, and cope with side effects. This approach seems similar to what a Brit would do.

However, pills work. Otherwise, why are the doctors who are doing the prescribing also taking the pills themselves? To embody the character Dr. Jonathan Banks in Side Effects, Jude Law studied the field of psychiatry and has respect for what psychiatrists do to help people with real problems. England seems to be catching up with America in acknowledging this.  Do you doubt that in the movie Dr. Banks was taking medication himself?

REFERENCES

Nall, R. (2016). The Benefits of ADHD. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/adhd/benefits-of-adhd

Payer, L. (1988).  Medicine and Culture. New York: Penguin Books.

Soderbergh, S. (Director) (2013). Side Effects [Motion picture]. USA.