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“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”

I know the title of this entry isn’t politically correct, but I’m writing about my thoughts about the movie by that name.

Oddly, “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” is one of my favorite movies of all time.  I have it on DVD and pop it in from time to time.  I think for me, the main reason I like it so much, is that it reminds me of what things are like in the mental health system under the medical model, where there is a very well defined split between staff and patients, where the staff pretty much hold the attitude that they are all knowing in regards to what is best for the patient without asking them what they think or even want to have happen in their life.

When I first saw this movie in the mid 80’s, I sat there thinking to myself how close to home it hit in many ways to my own experiences with being hospitalized.  I could identify with various characters in the movie and identify things they were doing with things I had seen in people I had come in contact with.  I had sat in group sessions where we sat in chairs in a circle discussing why we were inthe hospital or whatever happened to be brought up as a topic by the staff person running the group.  I hated that particular aspect, because I never felt that sharing my feelings with strangers was all that helpful.  I had seen this group be silent where nobody spoke, other times I saw it become explosive, much like what is seen in the movie “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”.  For granted, the scene where the girls are smuggled in, and the ward gets drunk is something that is far from likely to happen now or that I could see happening in the past, it does make for a good story despite the inaccurracy of it.

The movie also reminds me that there was a time when ECT and Lobotomies were frequently used to control patients who didn’t conform or were considered to be violant or in some cases untreatable.

In the 80’s, ECT was still pretty common, but not to the degree it had been.  In fact one of the psych units I was on in the 80’s had a room designated for doing ECT I remember it had a big sign on the door “ECT Treatment Room” it was a room that nobody talked about and if you asked about it you weren’t told much by staff beyond that it was “used for specialized treatment”, so it was kind of a taboo subject on that unit and for me the room kind of gave me an uneasy feeling.  Thankfully, the unit has different management and the ECT room has been dismantled and is now used as an office where folks go to see the Psychiatrist.

In all I have seen many changes in the mental health system, many I have experienced personally since the 80’s some good, others not so good, but in all, I find that my experiences have allowed me to realize that recovery is taking a greater foothold and that what I think or feel about what I want to achieve through my treatment is taken into consideration.  There are times when I get frustrated and feel like I’m not being heard and those are the times I pop in “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” just to remind myself that things could be worse, and that they are always changing and evolving and hopefully improving.

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