Portrait of a Schizophrenic the Movie Canvas Term Paper

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Portrait of a Schizophrenic

The movie Canvas (Rolnick & Greco, 2008) was an unexpected diversion from the norm of movies regarding people with mental illness. Most of the movies of this genre often focus mainly on the person with the illness and the effect this situation has on family members is merely subtext. Canvas put a different spin on the genre. In this movie the mother's schizophrenia is seen through the eyes of her family, husband and son, and her neighbors and friends. Their coping mechanism, some dysfunctional some not, are exposed as a realistic portrayal of how real families cope with this situation, of a loved one, a primary caregiver such as a mother, who becomes affected by schizophrenia. Yet this is no real tragedy, it is a testament to the resilience of love and of human nature in many ways, and shows strategies that may need to happen in order for family members to survive as well as the sufferer.

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In general Schizophrenia may present with one or more of the following positive symptoms: Delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, and catatonic behavior. Negative symptoms include affective flattening, alogia, or avolition. ("Schizophrenia Symptoms," 2008). To be diagnosed with Schizophrenia a patient must have one or more of the previous symptoms for a period of one to six months. At one point we hear that Mary, the Schizophrenic mother of the movie, has been dealing with this illness actively for eighteen months and probably had exhibited a progressive increase in symptoms prior to that. Mary is unusual in tht symptoms usually develop in late adolescence (Harrop, & Trower, 2003) and her illness appears to have come about somewhat later in her life.

Term Paper on Portrait of a Schizophrenic the Movie Canvas Assignment

Through flashbacks we see that Mary was a very loving a caring mother and that she also experienced a great deal of appropriate emotional responses with their son and husband. She has always had a sense of artistic expression and seems to have been a very social and outgoing person experiencing a great deal of indoor and outdoor activities as are available in Florida. In the beginning of the movie we come to realize that Mary had just returned home for a stay in some institution. Her son is returning from his aunt's home in Alaska where he stayed during that time. It is interesting to note that Alaska and Florida and not only the most distance states in the U.S. But also the most opposite in climate, in a sense the son was able to symbolically separate himself both physically and psychologically.

Mary is painting when we first see her, her mod is calm and her affect towards her some seems a little flat at first, but soon warms up. We soon realize however, that her treatment has not worked or she has not taken her medication and she beings to display delusions and hallucination, hearing voices, misinterpreting gestures and signs, a debilitating paranoia a times, to the great embarrassment of her son. When she is returned to another institution it his difficult to differentiate what is the influence of her illness and of her medication regime. The following table illustrate some realistic and unrealistic effects of drugs

Proven effects

Reduce the 'positive' (externally expressed) symptoms of 'schizophrenia'

Shorten, overall, hospital stays

Usually reduce readmission rates

Produce serious, often permanent, iatrogenic diseases like tardive dyskinesia

Revitalized interest in 'schizophrenia'

Produce enormous corporate profits

Mythological effects

Responsible for depopulation of psychiatric hospitals-'deinstitutionalization'

Improve long-term recovery rates for 'schizophrenia'

Enhance learning of new coping skills

Address the aetiology of 'schizophrenia'

Readmission rates would be nearly zero if drug compliance were assured

Table 1 Neuroleptic drugs: proven and mythological effects (Read, Mosher, & Bentall, 2004, p. 161).

In this phase she seems to exhibit much more avolitional as she seems unable or unwilling to join in activities and at one point refuses to even come home. This however, may be a rational thought since she realizes she is still not well. While substance abuse is often associate with schizophrenia, we see little of that in Mary's case. On one or two occasions we see her smoking but only in the institutional setting and never at home. This behavior has affected her ability to care for her child and maintain a relationship with her husband. Both are feeling a great deal of pressure from the experience, both internally in their own feeling of sadness and anger, and externally from neighbors, bosses and in the sons case, schoolmates making fun of both his parents.

Non-adherence to medication is a common contributing factor in major psychiatric disorders. (Corrigan, Liberman, & Engel 1990) Family intervention programs help promote adherence to medication by helping the client and family understand the purposes of medication and the common side effects. (Meuser, 1996, p.24)

As Meuser further points out, "Families often experience high levels of stress and personal suffering in their efforts to cope with a mental illness in a relative." (Meuser, 1996, p.22) There seemed to be no real intervention or therapy available or ordered to either the son and father, they seemed to be on their own and were not doing well until a catharsis of anger in the film brought them together at last. They certainly might have benefited from some assistance as Meuser suggests:

Common features of a family intervention program, educating families about client's illness, show concern, sympathy and empathy, avoid blaming, enhance endurance to medication and stress, improve communication, and problem solving skills among family members, provide treatment that is flexible and tailored to the individual's need, instill hope for the future. (Meuser, 1996, p.22)

She also notes, and we see in the film, that family members are often disengaged in the process of recovery from sever mental illnesses. They instead rely completely on the doctors to find some sort of cure that will bring their loved ones back to who they were. The usual course of therapy is single-mindedly medication. "Thus, new drugs like resperidone (Risperdal), olanzapine (Zyprexa) and others have largely replaced the older neuroleptics in the treatment of schizophrenia. As intended, these agents provided new sustenance for everyone's wish to find the magic bullet to 'cure' 'schizophrenia'." (Mosher, & Bentall, 2004, p. 349)

It is interesting that we join the film in the middle of the story. Mary's issues with her mental illness have been going on for some time, she has been hospitalized for a period and then released. She seemed to have stabilized for a while, but then falls back into her fits of paranoia and delusion. Her son cries out that it is happening again and her husband becomes more and more despondent that he is unable to help her. He blames her for not taking her medication, but it is not clear whether or not she is. However, in her second hospitalization she does try to stop taking it at first, but later seems resolved to do so. It is an interesting feature of schizophrenia, as well as other severe mental illness that patients, often in the midst of symptom free living, decide to discontinue their medication. This plummets that patient into a slowly increasing spiral back to where they were, usually before any loved ones discover the fact they have stopped medicating. However, as indicated earlier, it is a myth to think that if drug compliance were assured tht the patient would be cured. Many other factors are involved, include an increased resistance to any ongoing drug therapy by the body.

With the onset of schizophrenia the individual slowly loses the ability to work or socialize in any meaningful way. This frustration no doubt leads to more exacerbated moods disorders and eventually leads to a "burn out" of the positive symptoms, like hallucination, delusions, etc. leaving an empty shell of a personality in its place. (Davidson, L. & Stayner, D., 1997) this, coupled with the stigma that a diagnosis of schizophrenia can have leads to a slowly co0llabpsing social world for the patient. This is even more serious when it involves a parent.

Parents who have a serious and persistent mental illness are victimized twice. First, they experience a devastating neurobiological illness through no fault of their own. Then, they find themselves at risk of losing their children because they are viewed as permanently flawed and incapable of fulfilling one of society's most cherished roles (Ackerson, 2003)

So it is imperative that the psychiatric professional err on the side of caution when fixing a diagnosis of schizophrenia on a patient. If the cause is misdiagnosed and the patient can be alleviated of symptoms permanently, the stigma of the diagnosis can follow them, possible forever.

Is Schizophrenia genetic or environmental? This debate is by no means settled, though many feel that there is a genetic component that can be found. At one point in the movie Mary son finds himself hearing voices that he cannot shut out. He grabs the radio on his nightstand and smashes it to no avail. He still hears the voices in… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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