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The Doctor Who Hears Voices (2008)

TV Movie  -   -  Documentary | Biography | Drama  -  21 April 2008 (UK)
7.0
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Based on a true story. "Ruth" (played by actress Ruth Wilson, to protect the identity of the real patient in question) is a junior doctor hearing voices which tell her to kill herself. She ... See full summary »

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Based on a true story. "Ruth" (played by actress Ruth Wilson, to protect the identity of the real patient in question) is a junior doctor hearing voices which tell her to kill herself. She is treated by controversial psychologist Dr Rufus May. Written by Anonymous

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Let the one who doesn't hear voices throw the first stone
11 July 2009 | by (Denmark) – See all my reviews

"The Doctor Who Hears Voices" is definitely one of the most important films on its topic. To the unbiased viewer it offers a better understanding of what crisis really is about, while it also takes on the discriminating dimension inherent in a concept that views emotional distress, "mental illness", as a chronic brain disease, with meaningless "symptoms", incurable, requiring life-long medication, thus being a valid excuse to deny the "mentally ill" person any hope to ever achieve recovery, or get an education and/or be employed in a responsible position.

For people in emotional distress, it can be a revelation and a huge help to watch this film, and maybe gain another understanding of themselves, not as "mentally ill", but as actually experiencing meaningful reactions to past life events, giving them hope for recovery, and a life outside the mental health system.

Through the connection the film makes between "Ruth" 's voice and the bully from her past, the phenomenon of hearing voices becomes comprehensible as simply externalizing internalised perceptions of oneself by others, that are just too distressing to be accepted as one's own thoughts. The film demystifies hearing voices, showing that the experience lies on a continuum with "normal" thought processes, and in fact is nothing but thinking aloud.

Is the film incredible? Technically, Ruth Wilson's performance is exceptionally empathetic and realistic. Realistic enough, to have me forget, that the scenes including "Ruth" weren't the original documentary footage but a dramatization.

As someone who has experienced crisis herself, and has been as lucky as to receive a kind of help very similar to the one Rufus May offers his clients, the story itself to me is just as credible as its presentation, and I think, anybody who is open-minded and curious to learn about other than the mainstream concept of "mental illness" will feel the same about it.

To someone with a preconceived idea of "mentally ill" people as being noticeably different from everybody else, both in their appearance and their overall behaviour, as being potentially dangerous, and of mental institutions to be the only proper place for these people, of course, this film must be utterly intriguing - and incredible.

Apart from its take on society's discrimination against people who are labelled "mentally ill", "The Doctor Who Hears Voices" touches on several other controversial issues:

It mentions that Rufus May has experienced crisis himself at the age of 18, that he was labelled "schizophrenic", incarcerated and forcibly treated. Information that clearly shows that the best teacher on how to help people in crisis indeed is going through crisis oneself, and that the people who are the best to help aren't necessarily the professionals, but the peers.

It points out the risk Rufus May has to be willing to take, in order to be able to provide real help to people in crisis. Everybody who has some knowledge of the established mh system knows, that criminal charges against a psychiatrist, who causes the death of a "patient" through over-medication for instance, are more than unlikely ever to be filed.

Last but not least, it allows a rather harsh criticism of the established system in general, and its drug treatment in particular, to go uncensored.

In contrast to shes_dead, I see absolutely no exploitation of "Ruth" in this film. On the contrary, the film in all its openness and honesty gives her a unique opportunity to, anonymously, advocate for a more humane and respectful mh system, and a less discriminating society. Exploitation is to distort the truth to make it fit the mainstream dogma, as it has been done in "A Beautiful Mind" for instance. The truth is never exploitative. And "The Doctor Who Hears Voices" is true. Watch it!


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