Monday, May 3, 2010

Nollywood Madness I

Each individual, however strong they may claim to be, goes through psychological disturbances at some point in their lives, whether they realize it or not. Who hasnt been depressed/suicidal over a heartbreak?? Failed exam??
Mental illness is a phenomenon that has been grossly misrepresented and misunderstood in the Nigerian society. Most Nigerians do not search beyond a wicked mistress, second wife, mother-in-law, or disgruntled neighbors for the cause of madness in the poor victim and this theme has been exploited by Nollywood over and over again. [See “Remember”, “Scores to settle”, “One dollar” and a zillion other movies I don’t care to remember]
Meanwhile Hollywood even Bollywood movies tell us different. They tell us that mental disorder goes deeper than that.  They tell us of the different types of mental ill health: Mr. Brooks, A Beautiful mind, Shutter Island, Karthik calling Karthik, Funny games, 50 first dates, 500 days of summer. That they are minds that no longer recognize the boundaries of real life and make-believe; good and bad, the boundaries that help us function as normal members of society. In regular language: some screws have come unhinged!

So how do the psychologists describe mental ill health: “Any of various disorders in which a person's thoughts, emotions, or behaviour are so abnormal as to cause suffering to himself, herself, or other people”.

Debunking some myths about mental ill health:

All madness is caused by voodoo, spirits:
Madness can be caused by genes, pregnancy and birth, traumatic brain injury,  viral infections, substance misuse, abnormal functioning of neurotransmitter systems, Psychological mechanisms: emotional processing, personality, temperament and coping style.
Social influences: abuse, bullying and other negative or stressful life experiences.

Mad people wear unkept beards and run around the market naked singing songs and talking aloud to themselves
Find above notable faces of people who had mental disorders. Diagnosis include clinical depression to episodes of mania and schizophrenia who still went ahead to wow the world with their creative talents.

Mad people dont know what they are doing:

 They do. Even if their reasons are not right. They are one of the most intelligent people on earth. Voltaire quotes: “What is madness? To have erroneous perceptions and to reason correctly from them”

Jack Levin, PhD, the director of the Brudnick Center on Violence and Conflict at Northeastern University in Boston and the author of several books on serial killers, including Extreme Killings tells of Dennis Rader known as BTK {Bind, Torture and Kill}, a name he created himself. In addition to being a serial killer and a psychopath, Rader was active in the church and had just been elected church council president before his arrest. He held a job as a compliance supervisor in charge of animal control. He is married and has two children. "Rader, like so many of the others, was extraordinarily ordinary," he says. "He looked beyond suspicion, he was active in the church, a Boy Scout leader and a compliance officer, and that is the secret to the success. " Like Rader, "they don't look like sociopaths or deranged killers, because if they looked like monsters, they would be apprehended almost immediately," Levin says. "Psychopaths wear the mask of sanity," agrees Michael Welner, MD, a forensic psychiatrist and an associate professor of psychiatry at New York University School.
Dennis Rader gave a cool and dispassionate detailing of his 10 murders during his court appearance. "For a person with a conscience, Rader's crimes seem hideous, but from his point of view, these are his greatest accomplishments and he is anxious to share all of the wonderful things he has done," Levin tells WebMD. "He held this close to his vest for three decades."

Mad people are not intelligent?? With the above example I rest my case. Does he sound like someone who is not intelligent?

Madness cannot be cured:
Some can. Some maybe not. But there are drugs available which can calm and subdue the more excessive emotions or violent inclinations.
Elyn R. Saks, in The Center Cannot Hold, wrote about her experiences as a diagnosed schizophrenic. Such a life did not seem possible during many years of her struggle with madness. The diagnosis of chronic paranoid schizophrenia with acute exacerbation flummoxed Saks. All along she had considered herself not mentally ill but weak-minded and deficient in will.. Medication dispersed the demons, but Saks habitually wanted to discontinue the medication once she felt better; when she did go off the meds, she inevitably got worse.
When clear-headed, Saks was an academic marvel. She wrote a final exam that was the best her favorite professor had seen in twenty-five years; she published a Note in the Yale Law Journal in 1986, “The Use of Mechanical Restraints in Psychiatric Hospitals,” which the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law used in presenting a class action lawsuit against a Midwestern hospital; she scored in the ninety-ninth percentile on her bar exam. Yet she knew her condition precluded her performing as a litigator, and after a detour into legal aid work, she chose to pursue a career teaching law. She’s got a choice job at the University of Southern California.

Nollywood owes it to her audience to make a more concerted effort to increase their viewers awareness about mental disorders. They are an important source of public information on mental health issues, shaping people’s attitudes towards mental illness. The society is not helped by their constant portrayal of the mentally ill as either people getting their comeuppance or innocent lambs defenseless before the wicked.
The society should be aware that madness is CURABLE even PREVENTABLE. That it has perfectly normal/identifiable origins. It is only with this knowledge that we can lovingly reach out our hands to help.
Have you experienced mental illness before or someone who has?

Antisocial personality disorder
Portrait of a Psychopath

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