April 28, 2006

Mental illness, and a proposal for next Friday (May 5)

Posted in Mental health, Movies at 2:35 pm by The Lizard Queen

A little less than a year ago, Tom Cruise criticized Brooke Shields for treating her post-partum depression with medication and psychotherapy. Soon afterward, he appeared on the Today show to promote War of the Worlds and ended up expanding on his opinions of psychiatry, calling it a “pseudo-science.” I’ve been trying to forget Cruise’s rant, chalking it up to just another celebrity taking advantage of his fame to pontificate on his chosen subject. (I can’t blame them—I’m sure I would do it, too.) Still, the more I think about this particular incident, the angrier I get. People struggling with mental illness have enough problems without celebrities—who, like it or not, the general public pays attention to—disparaging them. I defy anyone who’s experienced clinical depression to tell me it’s not real. I defy anyone who’s had to witness one of the most brilliant people she knows descend into madness to tell me that can be fixed by vitamins and exercise. I certainly have no argument against people seeking treatments other than psychotropic medications for mental illnesses, nor do I claim psychotropic medications are a panacea; I do, however, believe that criticizing those who take such medications so that they can function is akin to criticizing epileptics for taking medication to prevent seizures. Such criticism is unfounded and damaging. My hope is that someday the stigma can be removed from mental illness, so we as a society can focus instead on understanding it and treating it more effectively.

To increase awareness of this issue, I have a suggestion that may seem like a non sequitur: an anti-Mission Impossible: III movie night. MI:3, starring Tom Cruise, premieres on Friday, May 5. Don’t go see MI:3 that night—instead, you might do as I plan to do and get together with your friends to watch a movie featuring one of the other MI:3 cast members (Capote, anyone?). Or perhaps you might watch a movie that deals with mental illness in some way, like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or Girl, Interrupted. (Or perhaps you might just go out and celebrate Cinco de Mayo and avoid the movies altogether.) No matter what, I encourage you to skip MI:3 (does it really look that good anyway?) and talk about this issue. Will boycotting Tom Cruise’s movies make any dent in his paycheck or his beliefs? Probably not. However, breaking the silence surrounding mental illness is the first step toward removing that aforementioned stigma.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
-Margaret Mead



  1. Beverly said,

    Brava! I told my sister about your Anti-MI3 party, and she loved the idea. She’s going on a date that night, but said she and her girlies all agreed already not to see the movie. Even if our boycott doesn’t really hurt T.C.’s pocketbook, at least it gets people thinking, gives us a reason to talk about these topics. Great post!

  2. I probably wouldn’t see MI3 anyway. I saw the first one by accident on television and never saw the second one. Just not a big action movie fan and never really was a bit Tom Cruise fan anyway.

    But I love the idea of consciously *not* seeing it next friday.

    His comments made me livid. Like people with mental problems don’t feel strange and judged enough. I worry that his comments stopped people from seeking help when they need it. I know it’s silly to think that people would listen to a celebrity on an issue like that but if you’re already self-conscious and depressed, hearing someone you (might) admire talk about how there’s nothing really wrong with you wouldn’t help.

  3. luaphacim said,

    Brilliant idea; I hate Scientology in general and Tom Cruise’s disingenuous, “I care about people and want to free them of their Thetans” vibe in particular. It’s especially out of place when it refuses to recognize that some people NEED medication to function. I’d wager Cruise has never seen his sobbing father curl up into a fetal position under the dining room table because of chemically caused panic attacks. If he had, he might have a different take on the issue.

  4. Thanks for the supportive posts, everyone–if you’re up for it, please pass word along! 🙂

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