A Beautiful Mind was a film released in 2001 directed by Ron Howard and largely based on the life of the Nobel Prize – winning mathematician, John Forbes Nash. It was a film adaptation of the book of Sylvia Nasar of the same title. The screen adaptation was written by Akiva Goldsman. The film explored the life of John Nash as he developed paranoid schizophrenia and suffered delusional episodes starting when he studied at Princeton University. The movie showed how this condition has impacted his wife and friends.
John Nash, played by Russell Crowe, entered as a graduate student at Princeton University for being a recipient of the Carnegie Prize, a prominent academic award in mathematics. Included in the prize is a guaranteed single room accommodation but John Nash was surprised to see Charles Herman, played by Paul Bettany, who greeted and informed him that he is going to be his roommate. Charles, a literature student, soon became John’s best friend. John also got acquainted with a group of other gifted math and science graduate students and formed a discomforted friendship with them.
John one time revealed to Charles that he is more at ease with numbers than with people. This did not surprise that group after they witnessed one time how disastrous his attempts were at having a chat with some women at a local bar. John had repudiated going to class since he viewed it as beneath him. He wasted most of his time scribbling on the windows in an attempt on solving a variety of mathematical equations and ideas. His classes were amused with but still recognized John’s talents.
His roommate Charles both encouraged him and attempted to keep him sane. But with so many skipped classes, John was informed by the headmaster of Princeton that he could not commence on his graduate work until he has completed a thesis paper. This encouraged John to look for a really inventive idea for his thesis paper. John was finally motivated with his successful work in governing dynamics concept, a theory in mathematical economics, after he watched four beautiful women walked in at the local bar one night.
Although he was spurred by his classmates into making a pass at the prettiest of the four, Nash instead started discussing about Adam Smith’s economic principles and their significance (or not) to the battle of the sexes. All of sudden he hurried out of the bar to start working on his theory which he called game theory – the mathematics of competition. John accepted an esteemed appointment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) after he completed his studies at Princeton University together with his friends Sol (played by Adam Goldberg) and Bender (played by Anthony Rapp) both also coming out of Princeton University.
After five years at MIT and while lecturing a class on calculus, he left an exceptionally fascinating problem on the board that he challenged his students to answer. One of his students Alicia Larde (played by Jennifer Connelly) turned up at his office to talk about the problem. From there, the two developed a good friendship, fell in love and later married. John met by chance Charles, his former roommate, on a return visit to Princeton. John also met Charles’ young nice Marcee (played by Vivien Cardone) and adored her.
John was invited to a top secret facility of the Department of Defense in the Pentagon to solve an intricate encryption of an alleged enemy communication. Amazingly John figured out the code mentally that left the other code breakers bewildered. In the same facility John met the enigmatic William Parcher (played by Ed Harris), who claimed to be a member of the United States Department of Defense. William monitored John’s work from a viewing room above that is partially covered up at the back of a screen.
William provided John with a new project to search for patterns and clues in newspapers and magazines presumably to prevent a plot by the Soviets. He was required by William to write a report of what he found and deliver the reports in a particular mailbox covertly. John became progressively more obsessed and suspicious and began to act unpredictably after he was allegedly pursued by Russian agents and a gunfire exchange in one of his clandestine deliveries. Alicia reported to a psychiatric hospital after she saw John’s worsening unpredictable behavior.
When John delivered a guest lecture at Princeton University, he became conscious that he was being kept under surveillance by a group of intimidating people. He tried to escape but this group sedated him by force and dispatched him to a psychiatric facility. This confinement further convinced John that the Russians are striving to obtain information from him and regarded the psychiatric facility staff as Soviet kidnappers. One time John crazily attempted to take out an alleged implant from his arm leading to too much bleeding.
The implant was allegedly given by the Pentagon. Alicia went to see the mailbox and recovered the top secret documents that John delivered in a frantic attempt to help John. She was surprised to see that all the “top secret” documents were unopened. John was dealt with this evidence and he was convinced at last that he has been hallucinating. He was confronted with the fact that the Department of Defense agent William Parcher and John’s clandestine task of decoding Russian messages were all hallucinations.
He was even more surprised to learn that his friend and former roommate Charles and his niece Marcee were also merely offshoots of his mind. This was confirmed when John was informed that there was no Charles Herman enrolled and stayed in Princeton in the same time and the same room as him. John was subjected to a succession of insulin shock therapy sessions and was later released on the requirement that he consented to taking antipsychotic medication. The drugs have negative side-effects that have an effect on John’s emotional and sexual connection with his wife and most considerably, his intellectual ability.
With these frustrations, John stopped taking his antipsychotic medication in secret and hid away the pills that resulted to a relapse of John’s psychosis with Alicia not being aware of it. In one occasion, John was bathing his infant son and was distracted and wandered away into the grove of trees beyond their backyard. Alicia at that time was in the backyard hanging laundry when she noticed that the back gate was opened. She found out that John has converted a deserted shed in the grove of trees into a workshop for John’s assignments for Parcher.
With this realization, Alicia rushed to the house to confront John and just returned on time to save their infant child from drowning in the bathtub. John asserted that his friend and former roommate Charles was looking after their son when he went out to the grove. This left Alicia in disbelief and she immediately got the phone to ask for emergency assistance from the psychiatric hospital. All of a sudden John saw Parcher who was encouraging him to kill Alicia. John rejected Parcher’s instruction in anger but he saw Parcher suddenly pointing a gun at Alicia.
John sprang at Parcher in response but ended up accidently thumping Alicia to the ground, scaring her all the more. Alicia ran away from the house in panic and fear with their child. John blocked Alicia in front of her car to foil her from going away. In the middle of the confusion, John came to the realization that Charles’ niece Marcee is a hallucination since she continued to look precisely the same age and remained a little girl even though years have went by since they first met. With this awareness, John told Alicia that Marcee never gets old.
It was the turning point for John when he acknowledged that even if Parcher, Charles and Marcee appear totally real, they are actually just figments of his imagination. John and Alicia recognized that they are caught with the dilemma of John’s intellectual struggles with the antipsychotic drugs and his hallucinations. They both made the decision to strive to live with John’s abnormal condition. At one time, John intentionally bade farewell to Charles, Marcee and Parcher forever in his effort to pay no attention to his hallucinations and not nourish his psychological demons.
Nevertheless he expressed his gratitude to Charles for being his best friend all those years and he said farewell to Marcee and told both of them that he would not talk to them any longer. Even with that, Charles and Marcee continued to hang around with Charles scorning John for bringing an end to their friendship but John has trained himself on how to ignore them. John grew older and made contact with one of his old friend from his Princeton years and intellectual adversary Martin Hansen (played by Josh Lucas) who was now the Princeton mathematics department head.
Martin gave the authorization for John to work out of the library and audit classes. Albeit John still experienced hallucinations and now taking newer antipsychotic medications, he eventually was able to live with and for the most part ignored his psychotic occurrences. John adapted to his situation in steps and amusingly verified any new friends and contacts to make sure that they are actually real people and not hallucinations. In the end, John secured the opportunity to teach again. His fellow professors paid tribute to him for his accomplishments in mathematics.
John went on to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for his ground-breaking work on game theory. In the Nobel Prize awarding ceremony, John especially thanked Alicia for being with him the whole time with his journey from madness to sanity. As they left the awards auditorium in Stockholm, John saw Charles, Marcee and Parcher who looked at him with empty facial expressions. Alicia asked John what was wrong and John replied, “Nothing, Nothing at all. ” The script of the movie differs significantly with the actual details of John Nash’s life.
There are discrepancies with some of the events and characters around John Nash in the film but those are not the focus of this paper. This paper is centered on the accuracy of the film with regards to the field of psychology. One difficulty that the makers of the movie experienced was on how to visually represent stress and mental illness within an individual’s mind (e. g. John Nash). The film showed John suffering from visual and auditory hallucinations when in real life his hallucinations were completely auditory.
The film depicted John Nash developing schizophrenic hallucinations in graduate school although he did not develop it not until a few years later. The part of the movie when John Nash said that he was taking newer medication around the same time as the Nobel Prize in 1994 was also not true since he did not take any antipsychotic medication since 1970. The film staff purposely added that statement since they believed that without it they think the film is supporting the idea that schizophrenics can get healed without taking any medication. The movie portrayed a patient with schizophrenia very well.
It was very impressively done as the movie sequence was well planned too. While watching the movie, one could never guessed that his friend in the university was a mere visual hallucination. It reflected patients with schizophrenia so well with regards to their level of functioning. Based on the literature I have read, symptoms and manifestations of the patient with schizophrenia in the movie was properly and accurately portrayed. Schizophrenia is one of the leading causes of disability all over the world. This mental disorder is characterized and illustrated with delusions, hallucinations and paranoia (Woodham & Peters, 2004).
A chemical imbalance in the brain is contemplated to be its cause, however, it still is believed to be unknown. Contribution of both genetic and environmental factors still remain unclear up to this time, though, it cause susceptible people to develop this mental disorder. In addition, the use of drugs activates some cases of schizophrenia. Evidence and proofs from researches and sudies showed that the early stages of this disability are critical in the formation and prediction of its course as well as its outcome (Frangou & Byrne, 2000).
With this, clinical studies and researches are focusing on the early stages of the illness since early detection and treatment regimen may yield better prognosis and functional outcome. Typically, the first and early episodes of schizophrenia occurs in the early twenties or even late teenage years. Its early recognition may sometimes be masked by its insidious nature of the onset of the disease as it occurs with history and background of language problems, cognitive ability and behaviour. Antisocial behaviour, social withdrawal, failure to be motivated and obsessional ideas manifest this mental disorder.
Auditory hallucinations and delusions are the most common reported pyschotic manifestations from schizophrenic individuals. Once this mental disorder is diagnosed, patients may then require hospitalization to prevent them from harming themselves as well as others. In order to control its symptoms, antipsychotic drugs are prescribed. Psychotherapy to these patients are also advised. Most of these patients return to the community and recommence their normal lives. The primary goal of treatment once patients are diagnosed with schizophrenia is to manage acute psychotic episodes.
Rapid remission is necessary with the use of the most efficient and tolerated medications. The use of low dosage of typical neuroleptics and atypical antipsychotic medications may be the fisrt choice treatment regimen for the early onset of the disorder (Frangou & Byrne, 2000). It is very important to be vigilant with the first onset of manifestations as studies have shown that patients are more responsive to treatment during this stage regardless of whatever antipsychotic medications being prescribed and used. Prognosis for recovery is nearly 80% especially with patients treated right after the first episode of schizophrenia.
Second psychotic episodes post treatment after five to seven years is not uncommon. It is not recommended to withdraw from the medications taken right away. Gradual withrawal from its treatment regimen is required to refrain from getting adverse withrawal reactions. Clozapine had been the licensed drug in the United Kingdom used for the treatment and management of patients with schizophrenia who responded poorly to the standard antipsychotic treatment regimen (Frangou & Byrne, 2000). Patient support from family, relatives and friends are important during schizophrenic patients’ recovery period.
These patients have a hard time reintegrating into the community. Educational and employment underachievement problems arise not to mention problems in forming social relationships. Intensive rehabilitation after the treatment therapy aids in minimizing these social disadvantages of the disorder. Family support in nurturing their emotional and psychosocial needs enhance better results during this recovery period. Provison of information regarding schiophrenia to the patients’ families will also aid in the understanding of the disorder.
Explanantion of the course and outcome of the disease process to their family members will also enable them to be aware of what to expect. Good communication betweeen patients and their care givers also play an important role to obtain positive results during the recovery stage. Together with other mental diseases like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia is a difficult and complicated illness to diagnose (Uyttebrouck, 2009). Since it is a tricky disease to diagnose, it ends up in treatment delays causing disappointments and a great deal of discouragements to patients and their families.
Results from recent researches pointed out using brain MRIs in detecting mental illnesses like schizophrenia. This study very well help in speeding up diagnosis once patient’s come with symptoms of schizophrenia. This brain imaging technology if proven with high accuracy could offer a great and powerful measures for diagnosing these mental disorders. The use of functional MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) were able to recognize with 93% precision patients with schizophrenia from those healthy control group.
Presently, the fundamental and underlying cause of schizophrenia is not completely understood, making its diagnosis entirely based on its symptoms. With the use of MRI in establishing prompt and early diagnosis, efficient and successful treatment very well facilitates improvement on the lives of patients with schizophrenia (Uyttebrouck, 2009). The movie showed that it took so long for the patient to be diagnosed with the disease. His visual and auditory hallucinations were so real that even people around him were never able to know and even complain that he was having these symptoms.
It seemed like his symptoms did not have any effects on the people around him. He was able to function well with his life. Even during his wedding, one could never tell that the presence of his friend there was only a hallucination. It was already when he got married that his wife was getting worried with his actions. It was then the time when medical treatment was sought. Since it took several years before he sought for medical attention and resulted to the delay of its diagnosis, it made a big impact on the course of the mental disorder. Also, the patient himself was denying that those people he had been seeing were mere hallucinations.
Even when his wife and other health care team members had already explained to him that they were unreal, it was very difficult for him to accept the truth. He was admitted to a mental facility and was administered with antipsychotic medications to relieve the symptoms. He was discharged from the mental facility with the condition that he will continue with the treatment regimen. Since the antipsychotic medications affected his intellectual capacity and abilities, he decided to cease taking these medications causing remissions and relapses.
This part of the movie showed the importance of being strict in following the treatment regimen to obtain positive results. The establishment of the diagnosis and treatment was very realistic. However, the psychologists should have given priority to home visits and follow ups. One thing that was not shown in the movie was the availability of health care professionals visiting in the community. Nobody from the health care team seemed to check up on him while he was at home. It did not show any home care check ups and visits from social workers, psychiatrists.
For me, health care professionals need to follow up closely those patients with mental disorders post discharge from mental facilities. The movie reflects the psychologists’ level of understanding corectly. It presented the importance of family’s support to the patient. His wife was with his side and was supportive to his treatments. The support of his wife created a positive outcome to the course of his mental disorder. Interpersonal and social issues were presented well. It showed very well what symptoms, manifestations and characteristics to expect from patients afflicted with this mental disorder.
It also showed the hardships and sacrifices the wife had to go through while taking care of a husband with schizophrenia. References Frangou, S. & Byrne, P. (2000). How to manage the first episode of schizophrenia. British MedicalJ ournal (International Edition), 321:7260. p522. Uyttebrouck, O. (2009, February 18). MRIs detect mental illness: Findings may help speed diagnosis. Albuquerque Journa, Metro and New Mexico section Woodham, A. & Peters, D. (2004). Schizophrenia. In Encyclopedia of Natural Healing. Dorling Kindersley.