Girl, interrupted
'Have you ever confused a dream with life?'

Below are quotes from three films. Can you guess where they are from?

  1. 'Have you ever confused a dream with life? Or stolen something when you have the cash? Have you ever been blue? Or thought your train moving while sitting still? Maybe I was just crazy. Maybe it was the Sixties. Or maybe I was just a girl … interrupted.'
  2. 'I must be crazy to be in a loony bin like this.'
  3. 'I've always believed in numbers, in the equations and in logics that lead to reason. But after a lifetime of such pursuits I ask: What truly is logic? Who decides reason? My quest has taken me through the physical, the metaphysical, the delusional, and back.'

Previously we grappled with the notion of normality in the context of mental health. In this article we discussed how sets of behaviours are classified as mental disorders: i.e. there is a ‘normal’ way to be—a healthy state of mind to have—which mentally ill people deviate from. But is this true? For the border between normal and abnormal is quite unclear.

This opens up a big debate about how we run our mental health services. Overall, we can see that the goals are commendable: treatment, rehabilitation, etc. However, we can see that they are only appropriate if something is wrong with someone. Thus is it right to try to change them or do we fully embrace neurodiversity (e.g. in those with autism, dyslexia, or OCD)?

‘Normal’ is often conflated with ‘average’: if most people don’t do X, then doing X is a sign of poor mental health. So if I am in a minority of irrational people who wash their hands 100 times a day, I am considered mentally ill, at least in some small way. But if I check social media 100 times a day or step over cracks on pavements, no body questions me.

This vagueness is something which has been explored in many great films. Characters struggle as their grip on ‘reality’ is weakened and they are treated as insane. While many people do need help, perhaps others are just different: less typical.

What do you think?

(Answers: 1. Girl, Interrupted (1999), 2. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), 3. A Beautiful Mind (2001).)