I don’t know about you, but I know what I’ll be rooting for at the Academy Awards Sunday. In the aftermath of Newtown, I’d like to see the Best Picture Oscar go to Silver Linings Playbook, because the most important health issue facing our nation is untreated child and adolescent psychiatric disorders.
I’ve already written about what an honest and accurate movie Silver Linings is (despite some Hollywood gloss) in depicting what it takes to wrestle effectively with mental illness. Of course school shootings are very rare, and people with mental illness are much more likely to hurt themselves than anyone else. But the movie illustrates how a chronic illness like bipolar disorder can be treated and managed, just as, say, asthma or diabetes can be, with medical intervention and vigilance and support from family and friends. And it also shows how, left untreated, it can be debilitating both to the sufferer and those around him. It’s a powerful message that inclusion and acceptance by the community are important parts of helping someone avoid frustration and hopelessness.
The trouble is that diseases above the neck just don’t get treated the same way as those below the neck: Stigma and embarrassment and misunderstanding get in the way of the happy ending, or at least promising future the character in Silver Linings enjoyed.
After Newtown, we’ve begun having a national conversation about the importance of mental illness, and a win for Silver Linings would help keep that going. I’m a big movie fan, and the movies nominated this year dealt with important issues, from chronic disease and old age in Amour to war, terrorism, and security in Zero Dark Thirty. But Silver Linings touched the issues closest to my heart. It made us laugh and cry and most importantly recognize that mental illness is real, common and treatable. An Academy Award would be a great vote of approval.