Tag Archives: mental illness research

“Silver Linings Playbook” and Meds: Why the Secrecy?

At the end of the movie Silver Linings Playbook, when main character Pat Peoples is about to embark on the next, happier, more stable part of his life, I think he says something to his ex-wife about doing much better because he is focused, determined, physically fit – and (shhh!)taking his meds.

silver liningsI think he says this because it’s muttered almost under his breath – like it’s a big secret we don’t need the audience to know. As if he could do it all by himself without those nasty “drugs”.

Really? Most of the one-out-of-four families who deal with mental illness will say that, while all those other elements of recovery are also essential (love, purpose, helping others, exercise, structure) , they could be entirely useless without the medications that stabilize the brain. Albeit not perfectly.

Does Pat Peoples Take Meds in Silver Linings Playbook ?

One quote from the book:

“…a woman who knows all my secrets, a woman who knows just how messed up my mind is, how many pills I’m on, and yet she allows me to hold her anyway”,

suggests that Pat did, after initial resistance (which we see in the film), take his medications (which we might see in the film, but it’s left unclear). Continue reading “Silver Linings Playbook” and Meds: Why the Secrecy?

Schizophrenia Recreated in a Computer

How does schizophrenia develop in the brain?  What happens? Dr. Ralph Hoffman creates “hyperlearning” in computers, which then recalled stories as a schizophrenic patient might.

Hear the interview here.

“Reporting in the journal Biological Psychiatry, researchers write of modeling schizophrenia in a computerized simulation of the brain’s connections, called a “neural network.” Yale psychiatrist Dr. Ralph Hoffman, an author on the paper, discusses what his team has learned from the model.”

Why? To learn.  If we’d never gone into space we’d never have the global networks we enjoy now.  To my mind – and for the 1 in every 100 people who are diagnosed with schizophrenia – the more we learn, the better.
Research is vital to understanding – and to eventually finding a cure.  We’ll get every dollar spent on research back tenfold if those with mental illness can truly recover.

Neuroscience Symposium at Yale

For a living, I make people laugh (radio broadcaster, VO talent, emcee, stage actress).  My hobby? Neuroscience.  It actually comes in quite handy, and not just in understanding my son’s schizophrenia.

From the “Neuroscience 2010” symposium at Yale yesterday: Kay Jamison Redfield (An Unquiet Mind), award recipient, reminding us that love makes a huge difference in recovery. Re her late husband: “My rage was no match for his wit.” How often it helps to keep a sense of humor, even in the middle of a loved one’s crisis. Sometimes it’s all you can do to locate your own sanity.

Big topic: early detection, possible prevention. According to John Krystal, MD, Chairman of Psychiatry at Yale School of Med, “brain changes associated with psychiatric illness can be prevented and reversed.”  Another presenter warns us that “mental illness is like paraplegia of the brain – we can’t change that it happened, but how we deal with it can make all the difference in quality of life.” Hope, realism, acceptance – all echoed in one morning.

But, clearly, if full psychosis can be prevented by alert professionals and family members, the outlook is better.  More understanding, less judgment, more hope.  Keep funding research, please!

Ben Behind His Voices – further out of the shadows

Claire Gerus, my wonderful literary agent can be contacted at cgerus@comcast.net. The original titles of this memoir represent some of the changes we’ve gone through as a family since its original draft as To Hell and Half way Back, and first revision as No Casseroles for Schizophrenia: Family Lessons on the Journey to Acceptance. Present title: Ben Behind His Voices: One Family’s Journey through Schizophrenia to a New Normal .

And, indeed, the “new normal” remains in progress – but there is happy news.  One of the reasons I wrote this book is to provide a vision of hope for families devastated by mental illness.  Many of the chapters spell out, all too realistically, the years of confusion and chaos, with sidebars of information I wish I’d had before Ben’s diagnosis.  And we all know that recovery is hardly a straight, predictable road. But – recovery is possible, with a combination of realistic expectations and persistent watchfulness and hope.

Before the symptoms emerged in  mid-adolescence, one of Ben’s most endearing qualities was his way with children – warm, insightful, loving. He was a sought-after babysitter and remarkable tutor.

We lost all that under the illness for many years.  If you have gone through this in your family, I don’t have to explain this any further.  But – Ben is still there, indeed, behind his voices, and he is emerging from the shadows more and more, with each day he stays on his meds.  This week I got to observe him teaching an art project to pre-schoolers (a homework assignment for a college class he’s taking). I saw, for the first time in years, reminders of the patience, creativity and understanding he used to have with kids.

It is possible.  It’s not perfect, but it’s possible.