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In 'Silver Linings Playbook,' Hollywood Finally Gets Mental Illness
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In 'Silver Linings Playbook,' Hollywood Finally Gets Mental Illness


Feb 22 2013
Whether or not it wins an Oscar, the film deserves praise for portraying real, human struggle.

Medication is a mixed blessing.

Pat provides a good illustration of the difficulty many people have with taking the medication they need. Especially once an initial crisis of symptoms has passed, many people want to believe they no longer need the medications that helped them reach a point of relative health. And psychiatric drugs can have powerful side effects, which sometimes feel just as bad as the symptoms of illness itself—or even worse.

Life goes on.

Despite their struggles with mental health, the two main characters, Pat and Tiffany (played by Jennifer Lawrence, who is also nominated), find themselves out in the real world, interacting with others and thinking about the future. They have not officially and permanently "lost it;" they aren't what our popular culture would call "deranged" or "lunatics." Pat, who suffers from bipolar disorder, has a relatively serious and chronic diagnosis, but he is not the mental equivalent of a "vegetable." Contrary to popular impression, a mental health diagnosis or hospital stay does not mean the end of a person's hopes for productive life. Most mental disorders are highly treatable, with common success rates up to 80 percent, especially with early intervention.

Neither does a struggle with mental health jeopardize a Christian's position before God. As Romans 8:35-37 assures us, "Can anything ever separate us from Christ's love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?…No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us."

Though no depiction could possibly portray all the possible symptoms and expressions of mental illness, Silver Linings Playbook does have a few flaws when compared to the real-life experiences of many people. To be fair, some are due to the constraints of the movie format.

Pat engages in several public altercations and outbursts. With the exception of an initial event that got him incarcerated before the movie takes place, his encounters with law enforcement are fairly light-handed. In the real world, he probably would have been arrested at least once, especially as someone with a criminal record and a documented history of violence. In the chaos of domestic disturbances and public displays of rage, most law-enforcement officers are quick to remove a problem person from the scene. Pat's world was more forgiving of his problems than most people find the real world.

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