CONNECT Summit County and Park City Film collaborated to bring the filming of “Words on Bathroom Walls” to the Jim Santy Auditorium on Thursday, May 6th as a Signature Event for May Mental Health Awareness Month. Filled to Covid-19 limited capacity, the audience safely enjoyed the in-person movie, followed by a lively panel discussion, recorded here.
“Words on Bathroom Walls” depicts a young man who is a senior in high school when he begins experiencing disturbing visual and auditory hallucinations, which lead to a diagnosis of schizophrenia. After an incident that draws unkind teasing from the kids at school, he changes to a private high school in an attempt to get a fresh start where no one knows about his disorder. He makes friends with a young woman and attempts to conceal his symptoms from her as she is attempting to hide her own secrets from him.
In the story, his mother is a stalwart supporter and they work together to find the right medications to treat his symptoms. At one point, just as life is getting good and symptoms have receded, the side effects become too much and the young man discontinues his medication. Things begin to unravel for him and he ends up hospitalized.
The full movie of “Words on Bathroom Walls” can be found on Amazon Prime.
The depiction of the young man’s symptoms and how they affect his thinking, feeling, and perceptions were eye-opening and created much empathy for those who suffer from symptoms of psychosis. One could understand why he would stop taking his medication due to side effects that rendered him unable to pursue his passion in life. Parents could certainly identify with the mother’s earnest efforts to do all she could to help her son.
Although the film was instructive there were also things about it that were ripe for discussion including how the young man didn’t seem to be affected by disorganized thinking or strong fixed delusions. He was able to articulate his entire experience with a depth of understanding, clarity, and humor that seemed unlikely. His path to recovery may have seemed short-lived to some families in the audience who have been dealing with a family member for many years.
In addition, as you will learn in the panel discussion most people with serious mental illness do not stop taking their meds due to side effects. They stop or won’t take medication because they have a symptom called anosognosia. This means they have a complete unawareness of their mental illness or symptoms.
Enjoy listening to our thought leader and board member Kathy Meyer as she leads a discussion about the Hollywood film and the realities of living with a serious mental illness. Panelists include Dr. Xavier Amador, a Forensic Psychologist and expert on anosognosia and founder of the LEAP Method, Alex Schlopy a World Champion skier and CONNECT Summit County Mental Health Ambassador who struggle with bipolar and addiction in his youth and his mother, Holly Flanders, a two-time Olympic Champion, author, and motivational speaker.