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This Upcoming Movie Could Actually Help the Image of Schizophrenia

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The theater lights go down and the screen lights up. It’s a movie about someone with schizophrenia, but what’s the plot? Serial killer? Savant? Someone helpless? As someone living with schizoaffective disorder, I’m sick of movies where a character with schizophrenia is a villain or genius, and I’m tired of seeing symptoms exaggerated or just flat-out incorrect. It doesn’t help people with schizophrenia or the image of the disease in society. But, coming out on February 12, 2021, is a movie about a character with schizophrenia that I actually want to see: “Fear of Rain.”

“Fear of Rain” details the experience of a teenage girl with
schizophrenia as she struggles through symptoms and begins to suspect that a neighbor has kidnapped a child. But the new kid in school, Caleb, is the only one who believes her, and Rain isn’t even sure he exists.

When I clicked play to see the trailer, I was preparing myself for another round of mass killings or wildly exaggerated symptoms, but right away it caught me. I’ve had many of the symptoms Rain experiences in the movie. I could relate to the feelings she goes through. I’ve seen those shadowy figures, heard those voices, and I have sat with tears streaming down my face telling myself that my symptoms aren’t real. The movie is a psychological thriller and drama, but, based off the trailer, it gives a glimpse into what life is really like for some people with schizophrenia.

When it comes to schizophrenia in the movies, there is a dichotomy between stories of brilliance and stories of violence. On the one hand, you have films like “The Soloist” or “A Beautiful Mind” – the story of mathematical genius John Nash who struggles with his illness but goes on to win the Nobel Prize. Then, there are movies involving mental institution escapees and acts of violence committed by people with schizophrenia or symptoms related to schizophrenia, like the 2006 film, “Bug,” 1990’s “Nightbreed,” or “Shutter Island,” which features characters in an “institution for the criminally insane” experiencing symptoms related to schizophrenia.

Movies depicting people with schizophrenia or symptoms related to schizophrenia, like delusions and hallucinations, committing crimes and becoming serial killers damages the image of schizophrenia. Not only are symptoms often exaggerated, it reinforces the stereotype that people with schizophrenia are inherently violent, which is just not the case. These movies promote discrimination and can also be damaging for people with schizophrenia who watch them. They can bring on feelings of shame and add to the reasons why people with schizophrenia may not speak up about their symptoms. For many with schizophrenia spectrum disorders like me, there’s a fear that others will think people with schizophrenia are violent or dangerous, which can lead to someone remaining silent while their symptoms worsen. People with schizophrenia already face a great deal of stigma and movies like these don’t help at all.

But movies about geniuses with schizophrenia aren’t helpful either. Many movies like “A Beautiful Mind” do paint the illness in a sympathetic way, but someone shouldn’t have to have an incredible talent to deserve empathy. And even in these movies, symptoms may be dramatized. The symptoms depicted in “A Beautiful Mind” are not actually the symptoms John Nash experienced in real life. I often find that I feel let down by depictions of schizophrenia and other severe mental illnesses because they don’t paint a realistic picture of the illness or promote sympathy for everyday people who live with these diseases. I want people to see what it’s really like. That’s why I’m excited about “Fear of Rain.”

Schizophrenia is a complex, frightening disease. You don’t need to be a killer to be impacted by it. Nor do you need to be a genius to triumph over it. I want people to see someone who could be their parent, sibling or friend who lives with this disease, and I think “Fear of Rain” might be able to accomplish that. We need more stories of regular people with real symptoms learning to cope with their illness. And we need to portray how society responds to people in that situation. I’m sure “Fear of Rain” won’t be without some level of embellishment, but it has the potential to bring schizophrenia into focus, and not because someone set a record or went on a murder spree.

Please note: the portrayal of the symptoms in “Fear of Rain” or any other movie mentioned in this article may be triggering for some people.

Image via YouTube/Lionsgate

Originally published: February 8, 2021
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