Psychology

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For psychiatric educators interested in using film to teach professional and lay audiences about schizophrenia, the 2001 release of A Beautiful Mind has made the process much easier. The movie shows a range of symptoms and complications, and it gives viewers—especially patients and families—hope for recovery. However, many other commercial films depict various aspects of the illness, and the choice of which one to use is determined by the audience, the pedagogical focus, and the time available. Clean, Shaven (1995), for instance, may be more challenging for professional audiences. Psychiatric educators should familiarize themselves with the variety of film options when teaching about schizophrenia. "I need to believe that something extraordinary is possible," Alicia Nash declares to her husband, John, in the Hollywood production of A Beautiful Mind. John suffers from schizophrenia, and Alicia desperately tries to help him recover from this devastating illness. The film's depiction of schizophrenia has inspired countless patients and their families, and psychiatric educators have already begun using it as a tool for instructing a wide variety of trainees. Despite the high quality of A Beautiful Mind, the film, like most movies, focuses on a limited number of themes and aims the story at the general public. Perhaps, audiences and teaching goals might be better reached in other ways. However, many commercial movies, each having their own strengths and weaknesses, could be considered as alternatives to traditional teaching methods for illustrating schizophrenia. Clean, Shaven, for instance, deserves closer examination for its stunning and dramatic presentation of schizophrenia. Contrasts between Clean, Shaven and the more commercially successful A Beautiful Mind may help psychiatric educators choose which of the two films to use and in which situations to use them. The use of film for teaching psychiatry has been the subject of several recent articles and reviews (1)–(5). Popular movies are accessible, memorable, well made, fun, influential, and thought provoking. Movies show vivid examples of psychopathology in life context, rather than the narrative descriptions given in clinical interviews. A variety of groups can learn from film presentations of psychiatric issues: residents and fellows, medical students, undergraduates, allied health professionals, patients, families, and the general public. However, each audience is distinct, and the setting for the teaching (e.g., lecture, seminar, informal group, public presentation) should influence which segments of a particular film are viewed. Film can be especially helpful in teaching about schizophrenia because it exposes a variety of audience types and sizes to the relatively unfamiliar phenomenology of schizophrenia. Although many people have experienced affective symptoms such as depression or anxiety to some degree, thought and perception disturbances, such as schizophrenia, may be harder for the average person to understand. Moreover, compared to clinical interviews (live or videotaped), film portrayals of schizophrenia may be easier to obtain, more anonymous, and more illustrative of active symptoms. Finally, dramatically edited commercial films—often with enhanced audiovisual special effects—may provide a more complete, concise, and memorable "virtual" window into the world of psychosis, an often emotional experience that most people might otherwise never have.

Even for professional audiences, film presentations may have advantages over clinical interviews. In a live patient interaction, trainees do not have the ability to "pause" and discuss content or process, "rewind" an interview to review what happened, or "fast forward" to more relevant sections. Similarly, for the lay audience, commercially edited films may be superior to videotaped clinical interviews in their technical presentation, quality, and efficiency. The popularity of commercial films may be a wonderful...
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