In terms of movies, in my opinion, The Soloist is a pretty accurate depiction of what schizophrenia looks like. Most movies tend to overexaggerate symptoms of schizophrenia, or they make it seems like the character just develops schizophrenia overnight, but this movie did not do that. From a clinical standpoint, The Soloist is one of the few movies that accurately depicts schizophrenia. Before we meet Nathanial, before seeing his disheveled appearance and his disorganized life, we’re introduced to something pure – Nathanial’s music.
I think this is an integral part of the movie, which helps the viewer to understand that while it’s easy to judge a person battling schizophrenia, there needs to be unbiased approaches. The beginning of this movie helps to cement an unbiased view of a person with schizophrenia. Without knowing what a person battling the disorder looks like, the music introduces the viewers to a clean, healthy image. It helps to put a positive spin on the negative picture of schizophrenia. Looking at the world from Nathanial’s point of view, it’s easier to understand his fear when Steve Lopez shows up out of nowhere trying to help him.
The underlying fear and uncertainty about who to trust, what to do, is very apparent in the first few meetings between Nathanial and Steve. For someone who is constantly listening to voices in their heads, it becomes infinitely harder to trust that strangers are trying to help you. I like that the movie stayed true to the signs and symptoms of schizophrenia, and didn’t try to make the symptoms more pronounced. Some movies go overboard and show visual hallucinations about monsters; however, generally, auditory hallucinations are more common in patient with schizophrenia.
This movie correctly portrays the importance of a psychosocial approach to treating schizophrenia. Very often the media tends to steer people towards medications before anything else. There is this underlying belief in our society that medications will help treat illnesses more than any other approach. This movie helps reinforce the notion that a wellrounded bio-psychosocial approach is necessary to treat a vast array of disorders, not just specifically schizophrenia or other mental health disorders.
Medications do help with schizophrenia, but I think a well-rounded approach is more feasible than just stuffing medications in a person’s face. Despite how much Steve Lopez wanted to help Nathanial, I felt that sometimes, he was going overboard. Nathanial came to rely on Steve too much to be normal. More often than not, Steve treated Nathanial as any other friend, which, in my opinion, seems detrimental to Nathanial. Instead of listening to and acknowledging Nathanial’s concerns, Steve tends to bulldoze over and basically just tell Nathanial that he can do it.
That doesn’t help in anyway, it seems to reinforce Nathanial’s paranoia. Steve tries to find deceptive ways to give Nathanial the medications, which prolongs Nathanial’s problems and once again, reinforces Nathanial’s paranoia. Lying to a schizophrenic and getting caught is pretty counterproductive – the paranoia and delusions that someone is out to get them or hurt them is just reinforced. A Beautiful Mind is based on a true story – the life of Princeton University mathematician John Nash, who battled paranoid schizophrenia.
I felt that this movie was really long, and I had a hard time staying awake and paying attention. It is a good movie, but to me, it seemed unnecessarily long. The film goes in and shows Nash’s delusions about the cold war and his meetings with secret agents and secret laboratories. Keeping in touch with how schizophrenics are portrayed in society, the movie also portrays Nash as socially awkward/socially inept. For the first few scenes, until the secret agent shows up to show Nash the video, it was a bit hard to discern what was real and what was Nash’s delusions.
It takes a while to understand hat the agents and Nash’s roommate are all part of Nash’s imagination. I disagreed with this portion of the film – I don’t know anything about John Nash’s story or what he encountered, but to me, an excessive amount of visual hallucinations is wrong. Patients with schizophrenia tend to have more auditory hallucinations rather than visual hallucinations. The characters of Nash’s auditory hallucinations also start by being a little helpful, and then later start making Nash’s life difficult. They seem to help Nash feel less lonely and console him regarding his social awkwardness and isolation.
The visual hallucinations portrayed in this movie are not persecutory (not that all schizophrenics have persecutory hallucinations]. The way the movie portrays them, fulfilling roles of imaginary friends, having the character miss the voices when they go away, it seems to be more indicative of multiple personality disorder than of paranoid schizophrenia. From what I know of John Nash’s life (which is not a lot], I understood that Nash was not a fan of medication. The movie points towards the idea that Nash only got better because of the medications he was taking.
However, Nash later on went to say that he hadn’t taken any medication since the 1970’s. I think that this notion that medication is the ultimate choice, the best choice to manage disorders is ridiculous. I completely disagree with how much emphasis the medical community and society as a whole put on medication. More of than not, medicine has a significant number of side effects that are bothersome, or tend to do more harm than good. It’s noted that Nash stopped taking his medication because it blunted his intellect. The medications that we give, as a whole, tend to alter the brain’s normal functioning as well.
I don’t agree with using medications as first line therapy, not when there are other options. The movie also highlights that John Nash was given insulin shock treatments, which he described as torture. John Nash eventually controlled his schizophrenia without medications – that does not mean his hallucinations went away, they were still there, but he was able to learn how to ignore them. It’s documented that about 30 years after his breakdown, all traces of Nash’s schizophrenia had disappeared, without the help of medications.
I think that is a very important point that we need to keep in mind when we are treating patients with similar disorders. This movie focuses primarily on the effects of Levodopa [LDopa) in regards to patients with encephalitis lethargica. It starts off showing a young boy, Leonard, who is affected by the encephalitis epidemic. He slowly loses his ability to write, speak, and eventually, move. Leonard is the first person who is “awakened” by Levodopa after being in a catatonic state for 30 years. Eventually, however, the resistance to the Levodopa increases, rendering the drug useless, and sending Leonard back into his catatonic state.
A number of patients are given the Levodopa, and they all come out of their catatonic states. However, in the end, the effect of the drug starts to decrease, despite the constantly increasing dosage. The doctor who administered the Levodopa to the patients [Dr. Sayer], did so after realizing that the catatonic behavior of the patients with encephalitis lethargica is similar to that of patients with Parkinson’s. This is the reason Sayer starts to experiment with the Levodopa on his encephalitis patients. The movie ends with all of Sayer’s patients back to their previous catatonic states.
Sayer closes with a reflection on the lessons that he learned from his patients – mainly, to live life to its fullest. I think the movie is a very good ‘awakening’ so to speak, regarding both the epidemic it educates about, as well as getting the viewer to actually learn to live a little. Patients with Parkinson’s show degeneration in the substantia nigra of the brain. Dopamine levels in the subsantia nigra are significantly decreased. The theory is that Levodopa helps to increase dopamine to normal levels, helping the brain achieve a better state of functioning.
However, in most cases, the body develops a tolerance to Levodopa, which makes the effectiveness of the drug fleeting. The side effects of Levodopa were portrayed very well throughout the movie: confusion, broken sleep, emotional instability. In cases like this, there is once again, the question of whether the benefits outweigh the risks. While the side effects may seem minor, there can be major detrimental effects of the medications. However, I do think in situations like these, the use of medications is perfectly acceptable.
For patients who are in catatonic states, there are not many biophysical, psychosocial therapies that would potentially provide improvement. I think this movie depicted the ‘awakening’ from the catatonic states and the regression into the catatonic states very well. I liked the ending of the movie – the way Sayer talks about what he learned during that summer from his patients. I think it’s important to understand that in the medical field, we may not always have a win, but taking each day one at a time, not taking life for granted, teaching people how to live in the moment, those are big parts of the job; they’re necessary components.
In regards to this movie, there is a pretty big underlying concept of living in the moment, and I think when we deal with patients with mental health problems or even other medical-surgical issues, that’s something we need to be aware of. Overall, I enjoyed the movie. It was interesting to watch and learn about something that was based off of a true story, and it prompted me to do a little reading about the actual experiment as well.