The subject of mental illness is never an easy topic to discuss. A person’s innermost demons being displayed for all to see is a vulnerable feeling, like having all of your clothes stripped away while onlookers stare and judge loudly. Unless you have walked through the trenches of the bowels of hell with your thoughts betraying you, you will never understand what it is like. For those curious about what people end up in a psychiatric hospital, there is the film It’s Kind Of A Funny Story.
This 2010 film follows sixteen-year-old Craig (Keir Gilchrist) as he navigates his complicated feelings of wanting to die, yet not wanting to die inside a five-day psychiatric hold. On his way to a bridge intending to kill himself, he takes himself to the emergency room instead. His depression embarrasses him and doesn’t understand it either. The ER doctor doesn’t understand the severity of how he is feeling, and it isn’t until he tells the doctor that he feels unsafe if he leaves does the doctor agree they should admit him.
There was a misunderstanding on Craig’s part. He thought he would be admitted to the hospital, and they would give him some medicine, and it would make him feel better, then he would be ready to school the next day. He didn’t imagine that being admitted to the hospital meant he would go to a psychiatric unit for evaluation.
Craig, like so many others, is under a lot of stress. Those stresses added up for Craig, and he didn’t know how to cope anymore. His brain was caught in a cycle of freak out, going down the rabbit hole of thinking if this doesn’t go this way, then the entire plan is derailed, and the train will end up flipped over and on fire. His parents Lynn (Lauren Graham) and George (Jim Gaffigan) are like many parents. They don’t understand what their son is going through. The dad either doesn’t visit because he has an emergency at work, or when he shows up, pushes him to continue to be stressed about something that is not important to him.
While being shown around the ward, Craig begins to understand the magnitude of the place that he is in. He is seeing all the different types of people that are in the hospital for help. I like that it challenges the stigma that everyone in a hospital for psychiatric reasons are either schizophrenic or comatose. The film showcased a variety of people and highlighted the different types of mental illnesses that people have. Even though not all the patients’ diagnoses were disclosed, as the audience, we can deduce by the behavior displayed by the cast of the hospital patients.
The film shows how exposure therapy can work for people. Craig’s roommate Muqtada (Bernard White), wouldn’t leave his bed, let alone his room. I empathize with Muqtada, I have felt so low that I felt like I need help to lift my head off of the pillow. Craig encourages him to leave the room and see what good things can come of it. At first, he just goes to the entrance of the room and decides that it is enough and goes back to bed. Eventually, with the help of Craig, he makes it out of the room and enjoys music with the rest of the patients.
Another impressive point that the movie showcased was when the psychiatrist Dr.Minerva (Viola Davis), told Craig that depression and other mental illnesses are not something to be embarrassed about. She said that if he was in the hospital for diabetes that he would not be feeling the same way. Dr.Minerva also praised Craig that he made a brave choice and should be proud of himself. She acknowledged that it is hard to see through the darkness and push yourself to help instead of giving in to the nasty and going through with the plan of suicide. Depression is like living on a cliff side and not knowing if you are even going to leap, either for wellness or suicide. By taking himself to the hospital instead of the bridge, it was like he was screaming for help, despite no sound coming out of his mouth.
Craig gets to know his fellow patients Bobby (Zach Galifianakis) and Noelle (Emma Roberts). Through getting to know them, and helping to be supportive when they needed him, he learned more about himself and what makes him happy. He learns what support looks like and how good it can feel to have people boost self-esteem and self-worth. He learns that when he sees someone blow up and lose control that he can now recognize that he keeps things under such a close lock and key, he can never let anything out that needs to. Most importantly, he finds himself and what is important to him. He loves art and doesn’t share the same goals and dreams that his father has been putting on him all this time. His newfound passion and stability; he has the strength to push through this tough time.
I think the romantic dynamic between Craig and Noelle was unnecessary. I believe that they should have only focused on Craig and his journey dealing with his mental illness. I do understand why it was added, but if you took that all out, the movie could stand on its own. The best piece of advice the film gives is that if something makes you so stressed and the end product doesn’t make you happy, then it’s not worth it and you shouldn’t do it.
Choosing wellness is a tough choice to make, especially when you feel you are spiraling out of control. Therapy, psychiatrist, and hospitalizations aren’t the end of the journey. They are usually the beginning. Hopefully, this film starts some conversations and can help end the stigma of mental illness.