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Supernatural: Hello, Cruel World (2011)
One flew over the Leviathan nest
All in all I think this is a good episode. They've extended beyond the more well-known biblical themes to darker, more convoluted arcs. Plus the subtext of psychological horror(?) as a more pervasive danger than the literal demons they face is a relatively refreshing change.
However, despite the bizarre origin of Sam's psychosis - torture in Hell - the aftermath is very real to many who have faced similarly traumatic events. Death built 'the wall', which hence allowed Sam to repress these tribulation. But when the walls inevitably crumbled around him, forcing him to face his demons (the literal/figurative equivocation here is getting old so I'll just leave it up to the viewer), Sam's PTSD hits him in the form of intense psychotic episodes, and what may be progressing into schizophrenia/some cluster a) schizoid/paranoid disorder.
What is their response? Hmm, let's get 'Death' or the new 'God' to cast some more spells! A quick fix is all we need, right? You're alpha males, resilient; you're not normal guys with the delicate squishy brains of some average Joe!
I've been a fan of Supernatural since day one, so I hope this criticism doesn't make it appear as though I'm being tough on the poor boys. I realise they can't spend a few months in one of those fancy clinics where Lindsay Lohan and the like spend their vacations; there's no time for that, nor do they know of a good psychiatrist/psychologist who's privy to the veritable Perdition city that roams beneath their feet. So it's understandable that they're not gonna start browsing the yellow pages for a good shrink.
Alas, a victim of such vivid, ongoing hallucinations and delusions needs to get some pharmacotherapy up in there, unless of course supernatural-based torture wasn't only the trigger, but is also a very real continuation causing each episode (which I doubt as it doesn't seem that Lucifer is actually taking the time to torment him with some crazy demon magic). If they can procure an infinite no. of viable credit cards, then surely they could get some atypical anti-psychotics (good for hallucinations/delusions) and/or antidepressants (which are good for treating PTSD), and/or anxiolytics. They say they don't want to 'pump him full of drugs', but sometimes, especially when psychotherapy is not an option, drugs really are the short answer (when administered correctly)! Do a Google search - they're pretty adept at those - find the right dosage/brand, and down the hatch.
Sure in the case of PTSD, medications are more of a band-aid (antidepressants are quite helpful, though), but if they attenuate or even eliminate the most severe of symptoms for the time being, isn't it worth a try? If he HAS developed schizophrenia or the like, atypicals are a godsend (of course Cas doesn't seem all that interested in pharmacology). Maybe then they could go back to fighting the tangible evils, over which they actually possess some skill, and worry less about Lucifer's hologram-style mating dance.
Of course the double-edged sword to the physical strength and skill of a warrior is that they have neglected strength and skill development in their intra-personal and interpersonal lives. It does seem they think taking the time to assuage emotional turmoil is a sign of weakness or selfishness (whatever happened to applying your oxygen mask before helping others? By helping yourself you can better help others to help THEMSELVES; it's a cycle of self-esteem and esteem of others influencing one another).
Of course, Dean does enjoy diffusing any such conversation with a not-so-subtle reference to bra-fittings, Jennifer Aniston movies and the over all 'femininity' of such acknowledgments.
Overall, this perspective does work with the characters, and I'm not knocking it in terms of character portrayal. But a lot of TV shows portray psychological behaviour as either 'crazy' or 'not crazy', the latter being appointed to most who are prescribed anti-psychotics or exhibiting any palpable signs of mental illness. This creates a lot of stigma, and perpetuates the idea that those with a disorder or need for therapy are weak, shameful or cray-cray / psycho. This isn't helped by people thinking the words "psychotic" and "psychopathic" are interchangeable; they are most definitely NOT***.
Although I don't think it's a great idea for Supernatural to venture down this road of psychological treatment and recovery as a main storyline, it would be nice to see a show like this put some effort into ameliorating these widely-believed stereotypes regarding trauma and psychological illness; to enlighten just a little bit, as well as entertain; and help remove these taboos so that pop-culture encourages us as a society to face our demons, instead of each allowing ourselves to turn into them.
This was a little Afternoon Special so apologies.
***(for reference, the former, PSYCHOSIS, basically means difficulty distinguishing between reality and fantasy, seen in schizophrenia and brief psychotic episodes brought on by trauma, drugs, genetics, etcetera; and the latter, PSYCHOPATHY, is a diagnosis, sort of a severe type of antisocial personality disorder, that refers to a fairly static set of traits, including lack of empathy and disregard/disdain for emotions, lack of guilt/conscience and little fear response, short, sometimes violent temper, and impulsive, reckless behaviour to name the most common)