A New Film Promotes Old Myths
A Critical Movie/Film Review of

Unlisted: A Story of Schizophrenia

(MyDoc Productions 2009/2010)

reviewed by Douglas A. Smith

This film is an autobiographical story about a physician, Delaney Ruston, and her supposedly schizophrenic father, Richard Ruston, particularly after she re-establishes her relationship with him after hiding from him for 10 years during which she had an unlisted telephone number for that purpose - hence the title.  Among the film's credits is "most compelling documentary" at Seattle's True Independent Film Festival.  It is scheduled for a National Public Television debut in the Fall of 2010.  The film's website is UnlistedFilm.com.

The film promotes harmful myths about mental illness such as schizophrenia and the treatment of people who supposedly have mental illness.

Most obvious among these myths are the assertions mental illnesses such as schizophrenia are real diseases associated with known biological abnormalities.  According to the film, "with schizophrenia, the brain chemical levels are measurably abnormal, and imaging studies show that brain activity and anatomy can be abnormal."  The suggestion schizophrenia always involves measurably abnormal brain chemical levels is flatly false, since many people called schizophrenic do not have these supposed abnormalities (one theory being excess dopamine).  Brain imaging studies sometimes showing differences in brain activity or anatomy in people considered schizophrenic reveal either damage caused by drugs with which supposedly schizophrenic people are "treated" or reflect normal variation similar to that found in people who are considered normal.  So-called mental illnesses such as schizophrenia are shown to be mythical rather than real diseases in critiques such as Does Mental Illness Exist? and Schizophrenia: A Nonexistent Disease, which show no biological differences can be found in the brains or bodies of supposedly mentally ill people - except for damage caused by psychiatry's biological treatments.

The film falsely claims laws in most states of the USA are so restrictive it is almost impossible to obtain supposedly beneficial involuntary treatment for mentally ill people whose supposed illness deprives them of the ability to see they need psychiatric treatment and who therefore refuse.  The physician, Delaney Ruston, M.D., who apparently is not a psychiatrist but a physician who does real health care at a clinic for under-served people in Seattle, Washington, claims when she tried to commit her father against his will to a psychiatric hospital she was prevented from doing so by restrictive commitment law that made it almost impossible because of misguided state legislators so concerned about personal liberty they created unreasonably restrictive involuntary commitment criteria.  The film's implication on this point is America's commitment to liberty for law-abiding people should be weakened even more than it already is.  Getting a law-abiding person involuntarily civilly committed to a psychiatric hospital and forcibly "treated" (usually with drugs) for supposed mental illness is so easy in all 50 states of the USA it is a violation of America's traditional political guarantee of personal liberty.  As Rae Unzicker said in her essay, To Be A Mental Patient, "To be a mental patient is to live with the constant threat and possibility of being locked up at any time, for almost any reason."  For most Americans, the promise of individual liberty is the reason for American patriotism, but it is a false promise for people accused of "mental illness," which supposedly is a diagnosis but cannot be verified by any biological test and need not be justified by the "patient" doing anything illegal and is, essentially, a value judgement about a person's behavior.

Almost unspoken but assumed throughout the film is another myth: the belief that helpful and effective biological treatments, such as "medications," exist for supposed mental "illnesses."  In fact, psychiatry's biological treatments including drugs ("medications") are harmful, as shown in critiques such as Psychiatric Drugs - Cure or Quackery? and books by psychiatrists Thomas Szasz and Peter Breggin and others: See An Antipsychiatry Reading List and Book Reviews on this web site.

Long-time activists in the ex-patients', antipsychiatry, human rights movement will easily see through the film's false claims.  The public, unfamiliar with psychiatry's pretenses, will be deceived.

A plus for the film is much of it is a supposed paranoid schizophrenic, Delaney Ruston's father, Richard Ruston, speaking for himself, and showing him as a caring father to her and grandfather to her son.  The film tells us Richard was an "A" student and a master of the English language when he was a young man.  People in the film tell us about his disruptive ideas and behavior in the past, but what we see of his ideas and behavior on-camera is not disruptive.  He speaks of his parents' divorce when he was 12 years old and his wife's, Delaney's mother's, failure to live up to her "for better or for worse" wedding vow and his pain from losing contact with his daughter, Delaney, who he points out did not invite him to her graduations from high school, Cornell University, nor Stanford medical school, nor to her wedding, which Delaney says was because of his ex-wife's, her mother's, objection to his being there.  He is seen on camera saying he does not consider himself schizophrenic.  After years if not decades of taking psychiatric medicine, his conclusion is psychiatric medicine "doesn't help you when you get depressed or lonely or feel isolated."  He says "I'd like to move away to Europe or someplace like that so I don't have to take medication, and I don't have to go see a doctor every two weeks."  He is, in other words, saying he'd like to leave America and go where he thinks he would be free from psychiatric oppression and find, in another country, freedom denied to him in America - freedom to live his own life and say "no" to psychiatry.  This probably explains why he eventually stopped taking his "medication" and disappeared.  Sadly, he exhibits physical and speech characteristics and mannerisms such as akathisia typical of people whose health has been harmed by taking psychiatric drugs, which will be seen by many as evidence of "schizophrenia" rather than as the result of drug damage - or in some scenes shown in the film, anxiety about psychiatric oppression such as forced "medication".

Another plus for the film is it shows a daughter who cares deeply for her father, which is apparent despite her sincere, erroneous belief in his psychiatric "diagnosis," and despite her mother's opposition to her decision to re-establish a relationship with her father.

An important reminder in the film is today's medical students are taught psychiatric myths as fact and hence are miseducated: Dr. Delaney Ruston says, "In medical school I learned that with schizophrenia, the brain chemical levels are measurably abnormal, and imaging studies show that brain activity and anatomy can be abnormal.  But medical school didn't teach me what causes these abnormalities.  ...  Research has shown a large genetic component" in schizophrenia.  The alleged genetic component in so-called schizophrenia is also incorrect: It has been disproved by studies of identical twins in which only one is considered schizophrenic.  In his book Is Alcoholism Hereditary?, psychiatrist Donald Goodwin cites concordance rates of schizophrenia in identical twins as low as six percent (6%) (Ballantine Books 1988, p. 88).

Perhaps in the future we will be able to have more confidence in modern health care and in America's commitment to liberty than we can today.  For that to happen, the majority of physicians and lawmakers will have to realize, as they should, that mental illness, including schizophrenia, is an invalid concept.  Perhaps in the future medical students will no longer be taught psychiatric myths but told the truth: that biological psychiatry is harmful pseudoscience.  Perhaps in the future law-abiding people will be guaranteed liberty, and today's harmful "treatments" for mental "illness" will no longer be offered by physicians sworn to the Hippocratic Oath, nor forced upon anyone.  I hope to live to see that day.

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