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About the Film
The documentary PIECE OF MIND explores the national crisis of untreated serious mental illness mirrored in three viewpoints: a man with bipolar disorder and two families caring for loved ones. The story takes place in the San Francisco Bay Area. Linda, a devoted mother of Jesse, 38, with severe schizophrenia, “I would like to see Jesse be able to live a relatively normal life.” Patricia and Frances are protective of their sister, Teresa, with schizoaffective disorder. Frances was “flabbergasted” that the police shot her at age 56 and she survived. In pursuit of life-saving treatment for their loved ones, they navigate a failed mental healthcare system. Jeff, living with hypomania “a white tunnel of white light” takes medication after attempting suicide at age 53, and must balance emotional stability with side effects. Their intimate accounts, accented by shadow puppet animation, are woven together against the backdrop of institutionalized neglect and reveal a path toward solutions.
PIECE OF MIND sheds light on the complexities of living with and seeking treatment for persons living with severe mental illness. Most family caregivers, the primary first-responders, are blocked by the 1996 HIPAA privacy law from taking action on behalf of, or obtaining medical information about their loved one.
Anosognosia, a brain disorder that affects approximately 50% of persons with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder and bipolar disorder, drastically impairs awareness of their mental illness and the need for help.
The lack of inpatient psychiatric beds nationwide was initiated by the Medicaid Institutions for Mental Diseases Exclusion passed by Congress in 1965. The law prohibits federal funding for the mentally ill in hospitals and treatment facilities with more than 16 psychiatric beds. This limits the number of individuals qualified for treatment to those who are a danger to themselves or others, in that moment. Psychiatric emergency rooms are a revolving door, leaving families and law enforcement to deal with subsequent psychotic incidents. PIECE OF MIND amplifies the voices of family members and persons living with serious mental illness challenging us to look beyond the headlines to the urgent need for a continuum of care.