Press Releases

NAMI Offers Perspective On A Beautiful Mind

Living With Schizophrenia

Dec 12 2001

Arlington, VA - Like many others, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) is looking forward to the December 21 release of the movie A Beautiful Mind, based on the life of mathematician John Nash, Jr.

"A Beautiful Mind is more than just a movie," said NAMI executive director Richard C. Birkel. "It may represent a breakthrough for Hollywood. As an Oscar contender, the movie has the potential to contribute significantly to broader public education about mental illness."

Nash won the Nobel Prize in 1994 for pioneering work in games theory, including implications for nuclear arms strategy. His career was interrupted by a 30 year struggle with schizophrenia. He is a symbol of hope, recovery and achievement for many people who live with mental illness.

Directed by Ron Howard, A Beautiful Mind, stars Russell Crowe. The movie opens in selected major cities on December 21, followed by general release on January 4, 2002.

"Hollywood takes dramatic license," Birkel said. "Although based in fact, much of the movie still will be fiction. What is important is how mental illness is presented within the overall plot."

Mental illnesses are brain disorders. The U.S. Surgeon General last year called on the entertainment industry to help eliminate the stigma traditionally associated with mental illness in popular culture-one of the key barriers that discourage people from getting help when they need it.

Hollywood slowly has started to shift. "People with mental illnesses are protagonists-indeed heroes," Birkel said. "They are individuals whom the audience can come to know and like. There is greater realism. The significance of A Beautiful Mind depends on the degree to which it counters stereotypes and stigma."

Other aspects of the movie, beyond artistic standards include:

  • characterizations of the nature of mental illness
  • depiction of symptoms and behaviors
  • messages about treatment, support and recovery