Strait Jacket On A Coat Hanger

I dredged up this article from the Psychiatric Services psychiatry online website, The Power of Theater to Promote Individual Recovery and Social Change, and that little signal light in my head went off indicating that these folks are thinking along the same lines as myself.

Although theatrical activities are used in a variety of therapeutic settings, little attention has been paid to the ways that theater can enhance the recovery process and community integration for people living with psychiatric disabilities. Community-based theater involving people with psychiatric disabilities offers unique opportunities for personal growth, social connection, and advocacy efforts. This Open Forum posits that theater has the power to both facilitate individual recovery and improve the social conditions of people living with mental illness. Critical elements of theatrical activities that relate to processes of recovery and community integration are examined. Implications for future research and program development are discussed.

Any actor or actress can study his or her subject and learn how to play a person labeled ‘mentally ill’. Among the latest examples of actors playing people bearing psychiatric labels are that of Russell Crowe’s performance in A Beautiful Mind, and that of Jamie Fox’s performance in The Soloist. Reversing this process, why couldn’t any person labeled ‘mentally ill’, taking up acting, learn how to play a person without a ‘mental illness’? When the role lends itself to analysis and dissection, it can be broken down, taken apart, and exchanged for other roles.

Perhaps I’m stretching a point past breaking when I say any. Perhaps I should suggest, on the other hand, that it might work for many. Once we’ve gotten many taken care of, then we will have a new many, and the circumference of any would have worked itself down to more manageable dimensions.

Other classes that I think people experiencing emotional problems might benefit from taking include Logic and Wilderness Survival Skills. If a person’s problem, as well might be the case, involved fallacious thinking, a course in logic could obviously help to provide the necessary corrective. Survival training helps build strong character traits, and wilderness conditions often parellel other situations where survival training might come in handy.

Am I suggesting that there may be something to this labeling of the ‘mentally ill’ business besides a genetically determined chemical imbalance? Yes, indeed, that I am doing. Reliable assessments that lead to dependable conclusions demand an open mind from the outset. Accusations of heresy are more appropriate to divinity school than they are to any discipline claiming a basis in the sciences.

2 Responses

  1. After I got off all the drugs and went back to school, I had to take a class called “Intro to Interpersonal Communication.” I learned far more from that one semester class than from all the time I wasted in a shrink’s or psychotherapist’s office. It’s very sad that mental health professionals refuse to teach such basic skills and theoretical concepts. If they did, I guess they would be out of jobs.

    • Intro to Interpersonal Communication must beat Helplessness 101 hands down. I hear there is a lot of that learned helplessness and internalized oppression often being picked up in the institutional setting. State hospital buildings have recently been transformed into what are referred to as ‘treatment malls’ in many quarters, where ‘the recovery model’ is seen as part of a training regimen, but this aspect of the matter has it’s downside as well. I don’t have a very good take on the parenthetical world of treatment. I think if you are going to learn anything, you are going to learn it in the real world outside of the parenthesis. I would encourage people to attend real schools where they teach real subjects. The rest is…not so important, and not so real. What you say? Bunk, bogus, bs, mumbo jumbo, balderdash, fiddlesticks, psychobabble, psychiatry, etc.

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