Nov 28, 2020 in Book Report

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Schizophrenia in A Beautiful Mind

In 2001, millions of people around the world became privy to one of the gravest mental illnesses: schizophrenia. Through Ron Howard's remarkable direction and Russell Crowe's portrayal of Nobel laureate John Forbes Nash, Jr., A Beautiful Mind became more than a mere biographical drama film, since it managed to educate the world on some of the schizophrenias most serious underpinnings. The proposed analysis revolves around John Nash, a brilliant mathematician who in real life suffered from the aforementioned disease. Aside from eliciting some of the schizophrenias' most salient traits, the proposed analysis will also evidence what are the dominating social and cultural attitudes towards it (as presented in the film); three NANDA diagnoses, as well as psychiatric nursing care, will also be discussed. Last but not least, the analysis will clarify how it is that A Beautiful Mind may be used in educating people (patients, family, friends, doctors, nurses, etc.) about schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a chronic mental disorder that severely disables those afflicted; familiars and friends are also severely affected by this illness).

John Nash, the protagonist of A Beautiful Mind, is a schizophrenic. In principle, this implies a series of chronic symptoms. For example, people with the disorder may hear voices other people don't hear. They may believe other people are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts, or plotting to harm them. People with schizophrenia may not make sense when they talk (National Institute of Mental Health, 2009). In addition, it is important to point out another frequent symptom among schizophrenics: the inability of making sense of that which is spoken. In other words, it is quite frequent to find that schizophrenics lose touch with reality completely; this bars them from effectively communicating with others. Despite this, and much like other mental disorders (including borderline personality disorder), schizophrenics may in principle appear to be normal.

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Going into John Nash's analysis, the first thing to be noted is that during the film's first part, he does appear to be a completely normal individual (other than the fact that he is a mathematical genius). The protagonist successfully builds friendships with his peers, he successfully becomes a professor at Princeton University (where he receives the prestigious Carnegie Scholarship), and he meets a woman (Alicia Larde), falls in love with her, and marries her. However, during this portion of the film, John Nash does exhibit one of the most salient negative symptoms associated with the illness: quietude. Schizophrenics have generally withdrawn individuals that speak little, even when they are forced to engage in direct interactions with others.

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Subsequently, his behavior starts to change; John Nash begins exhibiting more evident (positive) symptoms: hallucinations and delusions (National Institute of Mental Health, 2009). First, upon discussing the protagonist's hallucinations, it may be said that the most salient examples involve his imagining that certain characters exist (while in reality, they do not). For example, his best friend at graduate school, Charles Herman, is one of Nash's hallucinations. Department of Defense (DOD) agent William Parcher, who initially is believed to recruit John as a government code breaker, is soon found to be another of his hallucinations. Second, upon discussing the delusions that he exhibits, the most salient example is the delusion of persecution that he develops. Having become persuaded that he is a DOD code breaker, he becomes convinced that Soviet agents are out to get him; he even attacks a psychiatrist (Dr. Rosen) on the belief that the doctor is in fact a Soviet agent sent to capture him.

Moving on to the social and cultural attitudes towards schizophrenia, it must be noted that despite the characteristic concern and fear, sociocultural attitudes are perceived to be quite positive. For instance, the film presents unwavering family support (from Johns's wife) and hints that the protagonist achieves almost full community reintegration (Rosenstock, 2003), thus implying that there are full-fledged tolerance and acceptance. Granted, such depiction of societal/cultural attitudes may not be overly realistic, but they do give the viewers a sense of the treatment that schizophrenics receive. As far as NANDA diagnoses are concerned, John Nash exhibits multiple diagnoses, including the following: impaired social interaction; risk for others, or directed violence, fear (Tasman, Kay, & Lieberman, 2003). Throughout the film, it can be seen that John withdraws from the whole world (including his wife), endangers his son's life (and even accidentally physically attacks his wife), and constantly fears that Soviet agents will capture him. Finally, and having considered the symptoms and NANDA diagnoses previously mentioned, the most effective psychiatric nursing care would involve both antipsychotic medications to minimize symptoms, and psychosocial treatment to help them cope with life's everyday challenges.

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All things considered, A Beautiful Mind is a film that breaks new ground in terms of the film being used as a means of educating people about mental disorders. This is a film that focuses on the life of John Forbes Nash, Jr., who is undoubtedly one of the most celebrated and famous schizophrenic alive. Even though in some areas the depictions that the film makes of the illness are not one hundred percent accurate, it is nonetheless a valuable resource insomuch as it rationalizes, or demystifies, schizophrenia. This is a film that teaches everyone that for all of its hindrances, schizophrenia can be treated with relative success. Ultimately, it evidences that it is possible for a schizophrenic to have both a personal and professional life (and thrive in both).

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