Attitudes Toward Mental Illness Benefit From Discussion

CINCINNATI—Mental illnesses can affect anyone, they are not the result of personal weakness, and they’re treatable.  Still, people with a mental illness are often told it’s “all in your head,” with no recognition of the biological mechanisms underlying the diseases.

A prime example is bipolar disorder, which the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) defines as a chronic illness with recurring episodes of mania and depression that can last from one day to months.  More than 10 million Americans have bipolar disorder, which affects men and women equally.

“Through extensive research, we now know that genetics and neurodevelopment are biological aspects that contribute to the onset of illnesses such as bipolar disorder,” says Melissa DelBello, MD, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine and member of the UC Mood Disorders Center team.

“Our goal, ultimately, is to figure out what combination of biological, environmental and genetic risk factors contribute to the onset of bipolar disorder.”

The Mood Disorders Center , one of 13 centers or programs of the UC Neuroscience Institute, one of four institutes of the UC College of Medicine and UC Health, is sponsoring a new event, “Psych and the Cinema,” with the goal of stimulating discussion about mental illness. It will combine the showing of a feature film with a discussion led by a representative of the Mood Disorders Center.

The first movie will be “Mr. Jones,” starring Richard Gere as a man with bipolar disorder, at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, in Medical Sciences Building Room 5051. Cal Adler, MD, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience and member of the Mood Disorders Center team, will lead the discussion.

The showing is free and open to the public, with registration encouraged at

“I think there’s a desire in the community to learn about mental health, and movies are among the media that most people are interested in,” Adler says.  “This is a way to use movies as a springboard to overall education about mood disorders and also to address people’s questions and talk about what’s right with the movies and what’s wrong with them.”

In “Mr. Jones” (1993), directed by Mike Figgis, Gere plays a man with bipolar disorder who is arrested after a manic incident and enters a psychiatric hospital. Lena Olin plays a psychiatrist at the hospital who has a sexual relationship with Gere’s character (definitely a “wrong,” Adler notes).

Adler says he hopes to make the evening a regular event, with subsequent movies exploring other mood disorders  and led by other Mood Disorders Center specialists.

“The point of doing this is to have fun while learning about mood disorders,” he says.

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