There are two questions that plague every psychiatrist: What is normal, anyway? And was F. Scott Fitzgerald correct—are the rich really different from you and me? All right, perhaps the latter issue is more of a personal than professional interest, but the documentary Grey Gardens provides a wonderful impetus to reflect on each of these profound questions.
The cultural mainstream in Western society is one where the ideal is thin and being overweight is often interpreted to represent a loss of personal control. The 70 per cent of women and 35 per cent of men who are dieting at any given time demonstrates our preoccupation with body image.
Titicut Follies is perhaps best known as the only American film ever restricted from full public exhibition for reasons other than obscenity, immorality or national security. Conceived and directed in the 1960s by Frederick Wiseman, a young lawyer turned film director, this 84-minute black and white documentary is a frank and relentless depiction of conditions in the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Bridgewater, a prison hospital for the mentally ill.
Released in 2007, Lars and the Real Girl, the directorial debut of Craig Gillespie achieved a surprisingly successful reception for a small independent production. The film revolves around the life of 27-year-old Lars Lindstrom, a quiet, sensitive and vaguely awkward young man who lives in a converted garage beside the home of his older brother Gus and pregnant sister-in-law Karin.
The hallucinogen lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) was accidentally discovered in 1943 by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann. Surprisingly, a significant amount of the early research that explored LSD’s potential role in psychiatry was undertaken at the now closed Saskatchewan Hospital, a tertiary psychiatric facility located in Weyburn, Saskatchewan.
The suicide rate of Inuit in Canada is well known and alarming – generally cited as six to 11 times higher than that of the general population. The reasons offered are complex and include a higher prevalence of the following known risk factors for suicidal behaviour: childhood separation and loss, alcohol abuse and dependence, personal or family mental health problems, and exposure to self-destructive behaviour by others.
For those who endured Nazi persecution, the horrors did not end with the war. Although a significant percentage of Holocaust survivors have shown remarkable resilience, others have been crippled by a range of disturbing psychological symptoms. In Boaz Yakin’s film Death in Love, the connection between the Holocaust and subsequent psychopathology is made painfully clear.