As part of the annual Celebration of Scholarship event, John Carroll University’s psychology department hosted a screening of David O. Russell’s Academy Award-winning 2012 film, “Silver Linings Playbook” on Monday, April 7. JCU co-hosted the event with the Greater Cleveland chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Striking a balance between comedy and drama, the film centers around a protagonist struggling with bipolar disorder, searching for the silver linings in life after an eight-month stint in a psychiatric hospital.
The event, which also hosted speakers from NAMI, was geared towards reducing the stigma surrounding mental illnesses. This was the first event ever hosted by NAMI’s new program, the Mental Illness-No Discrimination Movement (MIND), an anti-discrimination campaign. Informational pamphlets and packets about mental health issues were distributed to those who attended.
“I think it’s really important to weave things into the fabric of the University on this issue,” said JCU psychology professor Tracy Masterson.
NAMI member Justin Nogle gave a witness before the film screening about living with bipolar disorder.
“Imagine you’re on a raft,” Nogle told the audience. “Not even a raft. You’re on a chunk of wood in the deepest, darkest, blackest ocean. Black sky. No stars. When you’re not on the top, you start to fall, and you’re sinking, sinking, sinking. At some point, you wish that a shark would just take you away, but you just keep sinking further and further. And it’s like this vertical rip tide, and then after a while you just start to not care. You’re just drifting away. You almost lose emotions completely. It’s not like a down-in-the-dumps day when you did poorly on a test; it’s despairing. On the contrary, your mania is this supersonic, out-of-this-world high.”
Noble said it took him a long time to overcome the label and stigma of bipolar disorder before he could reach acceptance, and he still hesitates to open up to others about his illness.
Following the film screening, Masterson initiated a dialogue with the audience about the movie and the issues it presented.
“I thought, honestly, that the movie was life-changing,” said junior Olivia Armand, who attended the event. “That’s an extreme word, but it’s really important, not just with bipolar disorder, but for anyone who has had any kind of disorder, to be open about it, because that reduces the stigma. There’s nothing worse than having to hide who you are.”
Senior William Lubahn said he appreciated that the event used a popular, mainstream movie to spark conversation about real-life issues.
“Kids our age are so influenced by the media that they’re going to pay more attention to a movie than maybe a documentary, so the fact they brought in a movie like this that had so many real aspects to it, it’s a really good way to get to kids our age and to help them understand,” Lubahn said. “And, it’s an enjoyable movie to watch, too, so you’re enjoying and learning at the same time.”
According to Masterson, about one-fourth to one-third of people will be directly affected by mental illness at some point in their lives, and many mental health issues arise during adolescence and early adulthood, continuing into college.
“You’re under a lot of stress, you’re away from home and there’s a lot of adjustment,” she said.
Masterson said she hopes students gained the courage to talk about mental health after attending the event.
“I think there’s something about it where some people think it’s some kind of weakness or something that they wish they had better control over,” Masterson said. “I think it’s also really hard to go and walk through the doors of the [University] counseling center and get help.”