mental health challenges that can go without notice in society

Mad Films

Mental illness is a challenge that has existed in society since time immemorial, drawing different reactions and understandings from people. Some take it as a curse, possession of evil spirits, or irrational behavior (Brown, 2013). Most mental illnesses do not show up as what is ordinarily termed as madness but irrational behaviors than can include aggression and lack of emotional control. Some of the mental health challenges that can go without notice in society are depression, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, addictive behaviors, and schizophrenia (Brown, 2013). Madness has been captured in various films, which represent society’s understanding of general mental illness. Analysis of such films can help to bring out what the filmmakers think about mental illness. The way a mental health issue is portrayed affects the societal way of understanding it. Therefore, it is important to understand each aspect of the film concerning mental health. In the film “A Beautiful Mind” by Ron Howard, schizophrenia, a type of mental illness, is presented in a way that illustrates the challenges persons suffering from mental health issues encounter in life.

A Beautiful Mind and Representation of Paranoid Schizophrenia

The film starts with John Nash, the main character, arriving at Princeton University in 1947, from where he starts his journey to excellence (Howard, 2001). He is painted as an ambitious and brilliant person. He possesses exemplary skills that the security agencies, particularly the Pentagon, relied on to decrypt messages by enemies. He makes regular trips to the Pentagon for the same purpose, although he does not like the idea of going there. Nash falls in love with Alicia Larde and later gets married to her before his schizophrenia signs became real.


Causes of schizophrenia are also presented in the film, showing that one can be born without a mental health challenge but develops it thereafter. A mental health problem can arise from one’s experiences in life that impact the brain (Brown, 2013). Nash was normal and mentally stable until he started working at the Pentagon on security assignments. Nash’s work entailed searching for and decrypting messages of the US’s adversaries, mainly the Soviet spies. He also interacted with security people, such as Parcher, whose activities impacted his mental health. A notable incident was the witnessing of the shootout between Parcher and Soviet agents, which left Nash mentally disturbed. In the process, he developed paranoia that he was being followed by enemy agents (Howard, 2001). The condition developed over some time before peaking. The more he became obsessed with his job of cracking codes, the more the fear for his life grew. In the process, Nash developed paranoid schizophrenia. There are various causes of mental health conditions or illnesses that society should be aware of.

The cause of Nash’s mental health points out to lack of early interventional plans to protect the mental health of the vulnerable population. After the shootout between Parcher and the Soviets agents, Nash developed a fear for his own life arising from the traumatic events he had witnessed and the nature of his work (Howard, 2001). He wanted to leave his job, but Parcher convinced him to continue without paying attention to his mental health. It would have been imperative to relieve him of his duties or help him access proper counseling to deal with his state of fear. The Pentagon did not address this concern, resulting in Nash’s mental health worsening. It is common for security personnel to suffer trauma after witnessing people killed, including colleagues, or even killing other people.

Signs of paranoid schizophrenia

Signs of paranoid schizophrenia include hallucinations and delusions in persons who have diseases. Kotowski (2012) asserts that paranoid schizophrenia causes paranoia, impacting how an individual understands his surroundings. Nash’s behaviors were marred with extreme hallucinations and delusions about people chasing him. He mistook friendly people for enemies and ran away or hurt them in imagined defense. His behavior is a typical presentation of paranoid schizophrenia, which one can see in persons suffering from the health condition. Phantasm, as witnessed in the film, when allowed to go out of hand, can lead to a serious mental disturbance. Nash’s weird behavior and actions were linked to his health conditions (Howard, 2001). In a nutshell, the film successfully portrays paranoid schizophrenia as a mental health condition that is characterized by delusions and hallucinations.

Management of the Mentally Ill

The film represents how society should treat people suffering from mental health, in this case, schizophrenia. The proper handling of a person suffering from paranoid schizophrenia is crucial in helping them recover (Brown, 2013). From the film, Alicia Larde played a vital role in the care of her husband, Nash, after he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. She stood by him, despite the dangers of living with a person whose mental faculties are unstable and can result in violence. The film shows that she did not give up on him, even when his actions implied he could kill her baby. She did her best to manage his condition without running away from him or victimizing him based on his mental health condition (Howard, 2001). The positive role of Larde is vital in representing the positive steps the society ought to undertake to support the mentally ill person.

In Alicia Larde, the film finds ideal support for the mentally ill that the society should adopt for the welfare of persons living with schizophrenia. Nash’s life would have become useless and destroyed if he did not get support and care from his wife and the general society (Howard, 2001). The film shows how important it is for the mentally stable person should sacrifice to take care of the mentally ill. Alicia Larde sacrificed her job to take care of the husband’s health condition. If she was not ready to sacrifice, Nash would not get the much-needed care and support to help him cope with the effects of schizophrenia.

The film represents how to handle aggressive behavior in a person suffering from mental illness such as paranoid schizophrenia. Sedation ensures that a patient does not cause more harm until his condition is stabilized (Howard, 2001). When Nash turned violent and hit his wife, Alicia, he was sedated and taken to a treatment center. In ordinary life, the violent acts of Nash would have attracted a fight or beating by members of the public, but this is not the case as he is professionally handled. Understanding the mental health conditions is a prerequisite to proper management of violent behavior by the patient (Brown, 2013). In essence, the film presents to the audience the possible, ideal, way of dealing with violent cases of paranoid schizophrenia.

Disruptiveness of Paranoid Schizophrenia

The mental illness is also shown to be disruptive of people’s lives, which they must come in terms with for their welfare. Mental health does not leave people the same, and neither are their families (Brown, 2013). Abrupt changes occur, and affected parties have to bear with for their own welfare. Alicia’s career life was impacted by her husband’s mental health condition. She had to leave employment to take care of him. The family life was never the same again as she was confronted by a dangerous mental health problem in Nash that made life challenging. The husband was no longer rational but mentally unstable and could not perform his duties well (Howard, 2001). The film paints an image of a family that is changed after Nash was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Mental ill people are also a security threat to those who want to help them, health personnel. In the film, Nash punches Dr. Rosen as he tries to flee away from them to avoid being taken to a health facility. In his thinking, Dr. Rose and her team are Soviet spies who are after his life. Paranoid schizophrenia creates extreme phobia of unseen enemies (Howard, 2001). Nash’s job trained his head to suspect anyone who may approach him, especially new faces or people he could not trust. When cornered, he resorted to violence to escape. He also treated the health center, the psychiatric facility, as an enemy camp. As a consequence, he became a high potential flight risk and also violent. The staff at the facility had to take extra care to prevent him from causing harm to anyone of destroying properties. Generally, persons suffering from paranoid schizophrenia treat psychiatric facilities as an affront to their life, something they must fight (Brown, 2013).

The film also shows how schizophrenia can be a disaster if it is not well managed. Nash is shown hitting Alicia after missing his target, Parcher. At the same time, he knocks down the baby (Howard, 2001). Most importantly, he is fighting imaginary enemies, which makes him very dangerous because he can hit anyone that he perceives to be an enemy. Alicia is hurt in the process, which underscores the violence they may accompany mental illness. Paranoid schizophrenia causes aggressive behavior as an individual start fighting or running away from imaginary enemies (Brown, 2013). The obsession with fear can lead to self-harm or harm to other people, as seen in the case of Nash hitting Alicia.

Additionally, Nash almost killed the baby when he stopped taking drugs, and his conditions relapsed. Paranoid schizophrenia is commonly associated with recklessness and aggression, a factor that makes a high potential troublemaker (Brown, 2013). When Alicia learned that her husband had abandoned medication, and his paranoia returned, she dashed home to check on him and the baby (Howard, 2001). However, to her surprise, she found the baby almost choking in the bathtub water. The baby was unattended to, and Nash was at home. In his imaginations, Charles was there taking care of the baby. Persons suffering from mental health conditions such as paranoid schizophrenia can kill or cause serious harm in their state of madness. When left in the care of children or anything vulnerable, it is good that they are monitored to avoid disasters such as was in the case of Nash drowning the baby in the bathtub. Lack of monitoring paves the way for mistakes that can arise from issues such as relapse of the mental illness, especially when they are under medication.


The treatment of mentally ill persons has to address the issues of patients rejecting of not taking drugs as prescribed by the medics. The film shows Nash secretly doing away with drugs, which leads to a relapse of his mental health problem. It is a challenge to effectively administer treatment to a mentally unstable patient (Howard, 2001). Nash presents a case of challenges psychiatrists go through to ensure that patients with mental health conditions take drugs as advised. A patient is likely to skip taking drugs if he or she is not closely monitored, which cancels the successes made in the recovery process. A relapse is a step back in treating a mental health condition such as paranoid schizophrenia (Kotowski, 2012). The film succeeds in painting an image of the struggles that must be overcome to manage the treatment of a paranoid schizophrenia case (Howard, 2001). Without follow-ups, particularly support from the wife, his decision to skip taking medication would not have been discovered and addressed in time. Timely intervention is needed where a patient does not adhere to prescriptions for medication.

Paranoid schizophrenia is presented as a treatable form of mental illness when well managed. The film ends with Nash stable and back to normal life activities. Nash was subjected to antipsychotic medication to alleviate paranoia he was suffering from. Dr. Rosen gave him a course of insulin shock therapy, which was successful in calming him down. The access to this drug is vital in taming the effects of paranoid schizophrenia, without which a person reverts to extreme hallucinations and fantasies about dangers he faces in life (Brown, 2013). The drugs for treating paranoid schizophrenia have side effects on the body that cause discomfort to the mentally ill.  Nash stopped taking antipsychotic drugs when he became overwhelmed by their Sid effects. The drugs made him weary and sometimes unresponsive. He did not like this effect and wanted to free himself from the drugs (Howard, 2001). From the film, it is clear that paranoid schizophrenia treatment comes with costs that include adverse side effects that a patient must endure to lessen the condition.

Paranoid schizophrenia is also brought out in the film as an easily controllable mental health problem if the patient can understand and accept his or her condition. Nash learns how to live with his mental health condition after taking medication that helps him to realize that all he has been experiencing were delusions and not real-life things. As Brown (2013) observes, taking medication when needed to avoid extreme paranoia and heal the paranoid schizophrenia. However, this also requires supportive conditions that can help a person forget hallucinations and see life from a realist perspective (Howard, 2001). Without forgetting or ignoring fantasies and delusions that one experienced before, paranoid schizophrenia is likely to recur.

In conclusion, the film “A Beautiful Mind” by Ron Howard represents how paranoid schizophrenia affects people and can be managed. The film reveals how the disease develops; it can arise from traumatic events or insecurity one can conjure up based on his work or living conditions. The symptoms of the illness include hallucinations, fantasies, and delusions. The film reveals that paranoid schizophrenia can lead to people being violent, reckless, and dangerous to themselves and those living around them in society. The mental health condition can be treated using an antipsychotic medication, as seen in the case of Nash. Patients suffering from paranoid schizophrenia require care and support to help them overcome the illness. In general, mental health illness is disruptive and makes a person vulnerable to do irrational things that include harming other people.




Brown, J. (2013). Surviving paranoid schizophrenia: A real-life story. Chipmunka Publishing

Howard, R. (2001). A Beautiful Mind (film). [Film]. United States: Imagine Entertainment.

Kotowski, A. (2012). Case Study: A Young Male with Auditory Hallucinations in Paranoid Schizophrenia. International Journal of Nursing Knowledge, 23(1), 41-44.

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