Monday, December 8, 2008

Tamara Daily: Movies and Madness


FALL, 2008

Class Time and Location: 6:00 to 8:30 Wednesdays in
Tolerton-Hood 100.

Instructor: Dr. Tamara Daily, Tolerton-Hood Hall room 206

Phone and voicemail: (330) 823-2457


Required Texts:

Wahl, O. (1995). Media Madness: Public Images of Mental Illness. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Armstrong, K., Best, S., & Domenici, P. (2006). Courage after fire: Coping strategies for troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and their families. Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press.

You will also need to read one first-person narrative account of living with a mental illness from an approved list.

Course Objectives: This course explores the ways people with
mental illnesses and psychological disorders as well as those who treat them
have been presented in feature films. Film, like other forms of media, has a
powerful impact on culture informing and mirroring our feelings, thoughts and
actions as individuals. The course examines the issue of stigmatization and
marginalization of people with mental illness as a social problem exacerbated
by misleading and negative images presented in the mass media. The course will
also provide very basic information about psychological disorders, the mental
health system, and various treatment approaches.

• To be able to critically evaluate depictions of people
with mental illnesses and psychological disorders in feature films.

• To be able to critically evaluate depictions of mental
health professionals and the treatment of psychological disorders in feature

• To develop a sophisticated understanding of the impact
of inaccurate and negative images of mental illnesses and their treatment on
individuals and the culture as a whole.

• To learn basic information about psychological
disorders and their treatment that is both accurate and useful.

Given that most people in this culture learn about mental
illness and psychological disorders from the mass media, most of what they know
is inaccurate and stereotyped. This leads to the further stigmatization and
marginalization of people with mental illnesses and causes such people to be
negatively impacted in a variety of ways. In addition, negative and/or misinformed
attitudes about mental illness leaves people vulnerable to neglecting their own
mental health needs and the needs of those around them. This course will be an
attempt to address these issues.

Connection to Departmental Objectives: This course is a part
of the whole curriculum offered in the Department of Psychology and is
classified as an elective seminar. The faculty in the Department of Psychology
has articulated a set of goals and objectives that guide our work. Of these
goals, this course contributes to the achievement of the following:

• Apply psychological knowledge to one's own world and
thereby enhance understanding of behavior and effective functioning.

• Think critically, formulate effective arguments, and
solve problems through effective utilization of information and, therefore,
function as an intelligent consumer of psychological information.

The Integrative Experience Requirement: The integrative
experience requirement is designed to achieve two broad goals associated with
the overarching purpose of fostering in students personal freedom in the
service of human community: (1) to provide a broad context in which to place
students' experiences within specific disciplines. In so doing, students will
be introduced to complex and multifaceted ideas which, in order to be
understood with depth, require taking the perspective of more than one
discipline. As they do this work, students are expected to develop the ability
to analyze issues in an active and reflective manner; and (2) to demonstrate
the ability to draw from multiple disciplinary bases, integrating and
synthesizing those perspectives meaningfully. Students will learn to apply
methodology and language from various disciplines as they examine common
themes, issues, problems, topics or experiences. The focus of this learning
experience is on making connections across disciplines illustrating the
interrelationships among them.

This course meets the goals of the Integrative Experience requirement in the following ways:

• Throughout the semester, students will be called upon
to use a variety of disciplinary perspectives in order to understand the
complex problem of prejudice and stigmatization of people with mental illnesses
and psychological disorders. Depictions of people with a variety of
psychological disorders in feature films will be the launching pad for
multifaceted discussions of where the images come from, how they are maintained
and propagated, and how they affect real people. This will require thinking of
film not only as entertainment but also as a mechanism for the expression and
transmission of cultural values.

• Students will be asked to complete projects designed
to develop in them the ability to examine films actively and critically in
terms of the authenticity, clinical accuracy, and potential social impact of
each depiction.

• Students will be asked to develop materials that could
be used in their communities to decrease prejudice against and stigmatization
of people with psychological disorders and/or increase community awareness of psychological
disorders and their treatment.


Attendance & Participation

Reading Reflections

Film Analysis Essay 1

Film Analysis Essay 2

Stigma Buster Project

First Person Narrative Assignment

Film Analysis Essays: You will be required to write
two critical essays of films (20% each) using an ideological approach (as
described on pp. 88-92 in the Corrigan text). The essays must be critiques of
the films from a list of approved films (i.e., films that I have seen). The
structure and grading rubric for these papers will be discussed in class and
you will be provided with a handout containing this information. You will have
the opportunity to revise each of these papers once to improve your grade. The
citation style you will be expected to use is APA style (see your Keys for Writers
book if you don't know what that means). The deadlines for these papers are
indicated on the schedule for the class.

Stigma Buster Project: You will be required to
complete a stigma buster project (20%) during the semester. A stigma busting
project is designed "to fight the inaccurate, hurtful representations of
mental illness. Whether these images are found in TV, film, print, or other
media, StigmaBusters speak out and challenge stereotypes in an effort to
educate society about the reality of mental illness and the courageous
struggles faced by consumers and families every day.

StigmaBusters' goal is to break down the barriers of
ignorance, prejudice, or unfair discrimination by promoting education,
understanding, and respect" (NAMI, You will have a great
deal of freedom to choose the type of activity you would like to do to satisfy
this requirement. Several examples are described in Chapter 7 of the Wahl text
and on the NAMI website ( The guidelines and grading rubric for
these projects will be discussed in class and you will be given a handout
containing this information.

First Person Narrative Assignment: You will be
required to select a book from a list of approved first person accounts of
living with mental illness. After reading your selected book, you will write a
reaction paper describing the author's experiences and what you learned from
reading about them. This paper is worth 20% of your grade.

Attendance and Participation: Attendance and
participation in the class are required and do count toward your grade.

Attendance (5%) will be taken at each the beginning of each
class. In addition, on the first day of class you will be given a card with
the name of a specific psychological disorder (5%) on it. It will then be your
responsibility to do background research on that disorder to be written up and
presented to the class. After your presentation, you will need to turn in a written
description of your disorder complete with documentation (i.e., citations of
sources). I will coordinate with each of you to determine when that
presentation will occur. You will also be required to produce reflections for
each of the reading assignments from the two required texts - one paragraph per
chapter (10%).

Classroom Conduct: I expect you to avoid behaviors that will
disrupt the learning experiences of others. This includes but is not limited
to being persistently late to class, leaving class while it is in session,
talking to other students when the professor or another student is addressing
the group, reading newspapers, completing homework for other classes, playing video games, or surfing the web. CELL PHONES, PAGERS, AND OTHER ELECTRONIC DEVICES (WITH THE EXCEPTION OF COMPUTERS FOR TAKING NOTES) MUST BE TURNED OFF WHILE CLASS IS IN SESSION.

Unless you have a genuine need to leave your phone on (e.g., waiting on news about an ill family member), turn it off! Putting your phone on vibrate is insufficient. I leave my phone in my office or turn it off when I come to class; I expect you to do the same.

Academic Dishonesty: Any form of academic dishonesty will
result in failure of the course and possibly referral to the Dean of the
College for further action. Academic dishonesty includes: taking someone
else's work as your own; plagiarizing (using ideas, information, or language from
sources without giving due credit to those sources); receiving unauthorized
assistance on exams, papers, etc...; submitting work used previously in another
course; destroying or interfering with College resources (e.g., library books);
interfering with the academic work of others; and, falsifying or misrepresenting
research findings.

Disability Statement: The Disability Support Services
office (DSS) offers a variety of services and accommodations to students with
disabilities based on appropriate documentation, nature of disability, and
academic need. In order to initiate services, students should meet with the
Director of DSS at the start of the semester to discuss reasonable

If a student does not request accommodation or provide
documentation, the faculty member is under no obligation to provide
accommodations. You may contact the Director of DSS at ext. 7372 or through
e-mail at

Schedule of Events for Psychology 280Q


Opening discussions and orientation to the class

Reading: Wahl -- Chapters 1through 4

Screening: One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
Directed by Milos Forman

Reading: Wahl - Chapters 5 through 8

Discussion: Institution Films


Screening: Girl Interrupted (1999) Directed by James Mangold

Reading: Armstrong, Best, & Domenici Chapters 1through 4

Discussion: On the Misbehavior of Girls

Reading: Armstrong, Best, & Domenici Chapters 5 through 7


Screening: Screening: Stop-Loss (2008) Directed by Kimberly Peirce


Discussion: Mental Illness in War Films


10/15 Screening: Fight Club (1999) Directed by David Fincher

10/22 Discussion: The Worst Hollywood Has to Offer


10/29 Screening: Matchstick Men (2003) Directed by Ridley Scott


Discussion: Anxiety Disorders in Films


11/12 Screening: Mr. Jones (1993) Directed by Mike Figgis

11/19 Discussion: Mood Disorders in Movies


12/10 Screening: Canvas (2006) Directed by Joseph Greco


2008 Observances:

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

Brain Injury Awareness Month; Brain Awareness Week

Counseling Awareness Month

Autism Awareness Month

Mental Health Month

Childhood Depression Awareness Day

Children's Mental Health Week

Mental Health Counseling Week

Anxiety and Depression Awareness Day

Anxiety Disorders Screening Day

Schizophrenia Awareness Week

Alcohol & Drug Addiction Recovery Month

Suicide Prevention Week; Suicide Prevention Day

National Depression Screening Day

Mental Illness Awareness Week

Bipolar Awareness Day

World Mental Health Day

Depression and Mental Health Screening Month

National Child Mental Health Month

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