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A Beautifiul Mind

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A Beautifiul Mind

May 6, 2006

beautful mind

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Mental illness is a disorder of the brain that results in a disruption of a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, and ability to relate to others. For someone who’s never had a mental illness, it may be hard to imagine what life would be like for someone who does. The film “A Beautiful Mind” is about a mathematician, John Nash, who suffers from schizophrenia. Through his anguish, we gain knowledge of a life with mental illness. It affects every component of your life, and the lives of those close to you.

The film opens in the late 1940s at Princeton, where John Nash is a young graduate student in mathematics. There Nash does some brilliant original work, but its importance is not immediately widely recognized. His best friend is his roommate, Charles Herman (fictional). In the early 1950s Nash takes a job at M.I.T. that involves both working at the (fictional) Wheeler Defense Labs and teaching classes. He believes he is a spy for the CIA and William Parcher (fictional) is his superior. At M.I.T. he falls in love with and marries a physics student named Alicia Larde. However, Nash's behavior becomes increasingly bizarre, and he is diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia. With Alicia's help, he battles mental illness for many years, and eventually recovers sufficiently to live a more or less normal life. Meanwhile, the importance of the work he did four decades earlier receives wide recognition, and in 1994 Nash is awarded a Nobel Prize.

The Turmoil that John Nash feels in the movie is not unlike the feelings many people go through. My experience with mental illness has recently expanded. A good friend was admitted to a psychiatric hospital with borderline personality disorder. I visited her and now have a better understanding of mental ailments. I was scared to go to the hospital. I had visions of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, but my fear was irrational. No one fit the stigma of “crazy”. They were people trying to help themselves. The hospital is a safe environment to take a break from the stresses of life that can be even more detrimental to a person with a mental disorder. The hospital can also help psychiatrists’ correct medication with constant supervision of the patient.

Like John Nash, my cousin Peter is schizophrenic. I’ve only heard stories of his erratic behavior and paranoia, but I know that he loves his family and friends no matter how severe his symptoms are. Borderline personality disorder, my friend’s condition, is characterized by depression, manic mood swings, and suicidal tendencies. I just learned about her illness and how severe it is. She attempted suicide and had to be resuscitated. She’s afraid to make her disorder public because of society’s opinion of those with mental illnesses. People suffering with psychiatric conditions are stereotypically viewed as crazy and dangerous. Everyone is affected by mental illness, not only the sick and their loves ones. People who label the mentally ill as “crazy” affects those patients negatively, making it harder for them to seek help. This is highlighted in “A Beautiful Mind” with the students’ looks of disgust when John is taken to the mental institution. He is ashamed to even show his face at the school for years. When he does return he is mocked by the students for his strange behavior.

Mental illness not only affects the physical body, but if affects the mind as well. You may believe things that aren’t true, or you may have feelings or despair and suicide. Imagine that you couldn’t even trust your own thoughts and feelings. This is seen in “A Beautiful Mind”. John Nash believes he is working for the CIA, but that does not mean it’s true. It can sometimes be impossible to distinguish fantasy from reality with a mental illness. This is prominent in the movie. John’s schizophrenia creates an alternate reality in his mind. He was faced with the realization that people and memories that were vivid to him never really existed. This comprehension is hard to accept, and John drifts back to his old habits.

It is not exactly known how mental illness occurs. There is evidence supporting the cause as genetic, but there is also evidence that it comes from the environment. Sometimes both are factors. If your family has a history of depression, you are more likely to suffer from the affliction. You could be the only person you know that has depression. Science shows that sometimes illness is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Medication can be helpful, but finding the right drug, dose, and combination can take years. Therapy is also very useful in the healing process. Patients need to understand, as in John Nash’s case, not everything

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