Last week I alerted you to a Lifetime Television program, "Call Me Crazy."  In five vignettes, the movie outlined struggles of people with mental illness in the context of family relationships.

I would give this film two thumbs up.  Like "Silver Linings Playbook," "Call Me Crazy" gave the public an accurate look of what mental illness really looks like.  Mental illness can develop in anyone.  We saw a young law student, an older white man, a mom, and a soldier struggle with various illnesses.  We also saw how the roles of parents, siblings, spouses, and children are affected by the illness and the importance of each person getting help for themselves.

Sometimes mental illness can be resolved fairly quickly.  Mild to moderate depression, for example, can be lifted with changes in lifestyle and psychotherapy; no medication may be needed.  The person has hopefully gained some insight into why depression happens and how to manage themselves so that it doesn't recur.

For others, mental illness will be a lifetime struggle.  If someone has had more than a bout or two of major depression, it may be that they will need periodic, on-going psychotherapy and perhaps medication management.  The same can be said of other problems, such as bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, PTSD, AD/HD and so forth.

Although the film did not directly address sexuality, they did include painful situations that hinted at the impact of mental illness on a person's ability to form appropriate relationships.  While in a hospital for a psychotic break, the law student meets an attractive man with bipolar disorder who is recovering from a suicide attempt.  Drawn to one another by similar struggles, they kiss, but the student realizes that she isn't ready for a sexual relationship, and the anxiety of the moment causes her hallucinations to increase.  The viewer might wonder, will she ever be ready for love? 

The answer is, maybe.  Also important is to realize that love is never enough to heal mental illness.  Most people with mental illness have people in their lives who love them plenty.  Sometimes they make mistakes, but the love is still there.  Love can help, but it doesn't make people well.  The right treatment and commitment to mental health are what's needed.

Although my specialty is sex therapy, people come into my office all the time with conditions that they didn't realize they had.  Attention deficit disorder, substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder are among the problems that I diagnose.  Also people with learning disabilities or Asperger disorder make their way into my practice because partners don't understand their particular needs around communication, leading to relationship strife and sexual problems.

If you want to learn about sexuality and mental illness, then read Sex, Love, and Mental Illness: A Couples' Guide to Staying Connected.  If you need help, contact National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

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