Psychiatry and movies: David Helfgott, Genius reborn


I use scenes form movies very often when teaching medical students about psychiatry. The benefit of those scenes are that you can see psychiatric symptoms and patients in a very condensed form. Not all movies or scenes can be used. For instance it is hard to use “A beautiful mind” for teaching on Schizophrenia because you’ll have to show a very long excerpt of the movie to make your point. Shine is also an example of a movie which you’ll need to show at considerable length in order to show the students psychiatric disorder. There is even an entire website about Movies and Mental Illness.
With clear instructions some scenes can be used to demonstrate psychiatric symptoms. “As good as it gets” is one of my favorites. All ready in the beginning of the movie the first scenes paint a clear picture of someone with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Showing “As good as it gets” during a lecture a student asked me if “The Aviator” is also about OCD. I hadn’t seen that movie so I purchased the DVD. There are some scenes that clearly shows symptoms of OCD and as such can be used for instructing medical students about psychiatric symptoms. On the other hand seeing the movie also raises the question whether it is OCD or compulsions and obsessions as part of Schizophrenia and that is more difficult to show during a lecture. It requires to show a considerable part of the movie.
Now back to Shine. It is one of the most impelling movies of a psychiatric patient struggling with his illness and overcoming for a great deal his illness. He has also been treated with electro convulsive therapy which can be seen in a short scene. He is doing well these days. In this article in The Japan Times. He is doing a tour in Japan this year.“I have tours of New Zealand and Europe this year and again two European tours in 2008, as well as concerts in Australia and Asia, so my itinerary is rather full,” he says. “But then I enjoy playing very much. I just play and let the music tell the story.”
Good for him
Not only movies but also television shows have psychiatric topics. For instance Brook Shields talking about her post partum depression with Oprah Winfrey. For another comment about psychiatry and movies or television have a look at this article from Lancaster Online: How the media looks at the mind.

Discussed movies:
“A beautiful mind”
“As good as it gets”
“The Aviator”
“Shine”