By Sunil Bolar
Schizophrenia. Until not so long ago, it was a dirty word. A word associated with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In no short measure due to the influence of movies through the 60’s right through to the 90’s. It was around this time that a larger awareness of this crippling mental illness began to spread through the media, and thereby to the larger masses of the public. Until this time however, sufferers of this mental illness were the subject of crippling stigma, often more crippling than the illness.
Luckily however, through a combined effort of modern medicine, Hollywood, mental health professionals and caregivers of people suffering from Schizophrenia, the stigma began to reduce. Having said this, the stigma is still omnipresent innature, and is enough to label a person for life, even if he or she has been asymptomatic for a considerable period of time. Consider this – A person suffering from high Blood Pressure is not known as a BP-ic, nor is a person suffering from migraine called a migraine-ic. But a person suffering from schizophrenia is called a schizophrenic! We still have a long way to go before we can eliminate this differentiation between sufferers of an illness beyond their control.
What is the role of Hollywood in all of this you may ask? Hollywood has been a powerful influence on people’s minds since it first began churning out movies. Have you ever noticed anyone with tears in their eyes while watching Simba’s father Lion die in the Lion King movie? Or noticed how movie buffs drive their cars after watching a movie like the Fast and the Furious? That is the influence I’m talking about.
Hollywood has produced superb movies about schizophrenia like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, A Beautiful Mind, and many more. How do we learn from them instead of watching them for pure entertainment? This is where a program named Reel Therapy is utilized.
Reel Therapy is a mode of therapy that utilizes movies as an adjunctive therapy for traditional psychotherapies. The advantage of Reel Therapy is that it allows the viewer a chance to maintain a distance from the actual / perceived situation, while experiencing all the inputs like sound, light, imagery, plot and story. This usually allows the viewer to develop insight about the movie that they are watching, thereby developing insight into the particular problem they may have.
Reel Therapy has been in use for the last 15 years in countries like the USA and Canada, and has just been introduced in India for the first time by the Cadabam’s Group. In the short time that Reel Therapy has been introduced by Cadabam’s, there have been several success stories of recovering individuals gaining insight and overcoming their symptoms to become and remain asymptomatic. One of those success stories is myself.