Perception and mental wellness

To begin with, why have I used wellness and not health? I will quote what the UNC webpage of Advisory Committee to the Chancellor for Employee Health and Wellness says with regard to this: “According to the World Health Organization, mental health is defined as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” So, mental health is the general term to refer to our emotional, psychological, and social …well-being. Mental wellness, as I am calling it here, is yes a synonyms of mental health, but I want to give it a slightly more positive connotation. The way our brain works affects how we think, feel, act and also how we make choices. Mental health is what makes us work properly in our society. Mental wellness, to me, is how we feel and if we feel -fine enough- to work, act, exist …in our society.

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There are several internal and external factors which contribute to a person’s mental wellness, including relationships with friends, loved ones, financial issues, workplace environment, and those that are called “coping behaviors” and skills. I wonder if I am interested in these topics because of my previous studies in psychology, but then I would have to ask why I was interested in psychology in the first place, back in the days. In this case, I would need a couple of years to go through this argument. So, no thank you. What remains though, is the fact that I just needed a word, perception, to be sure I would have binged watched another tv-show. Duh! And yes, the fact that Eric McCormack was the protagonist was a huge incentive because of Will and Grace, that kept me company during my first years at University, many, many years ago. (Oh, and by the way, a brand new season of Will and Grace is now showing on NBC, oh yeah!)

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I am going to introduce the plot of Perception-the series before continuing this digression on mental wellness:

Perception 

Genre: they want to call it “crime drama” …I would add something psychological too, but meh.
Created by: Kenneth Biller, Mike Sussman
StarringEric McCormackRachael Leigh CookKelly RowanArjay SmithLeVar BurtonScott Wolf
Watched on: FOX Italy
Three Seasons, Thirty-nine Episodes watched in: a couple of months.

Dr. Daniel Pierce is a neuropsychiatrist who teaches neuroscience at the (fictional) Chicago Lake Michigan University (CLMU), and his interest in neuroscience stems from his own long history of paranoid schizophrenia (everyone is interested is what touches them the most, I guess). He also works as an expert consultant for the FBI assisting closely a very Special Agent, Kate Moretti, who is a former student of Pierce’s classes back in the days. It is thanks to his hallucinations that, most of the times, he can pick out the clues allowing him and Agent Moretti to solve the crimes they are investigating. Lewicki, Dr. Pierce’s teaching assistant, is a fundamental asset for Prof. Pierce’s mental well-being, because he knows how to handle his crisis and his obsessions. Last, but not least, (considering she was in another tv-show, The O.C. another favorite of mine) Natalie Vincent played by Kelly Rowan, is the most favorite Pierce’s hallucination who manifests herself as a result of his schizophrenia, but who also serves as his counselor, clue collector and, of course, best friend. How the story “ends” in the last episode of season three is up to you to find out. No spoilers here. #Sorrynotsorry.

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One of the things I like the most is when a tv-series’ episode typically begins with a scene of the protagonist giving a lecture (missing academia much?), or introducing a sort of metaphysical problem, concerns, whatever, about an aspect of humanity that usually leads to the development of the plot itself (Grey’s Anatomy is another show that does something similar, I love you Shonda Rhimes). In this case, it is a brain fact or factor that becomes significant within the story, and reaching the end of the episode, the observations that the professor explains to the students about the paradoxes of human perception end his lecture. Brilliant, I know.

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Perception was canceled after the third season and there were controversies saying it passed a wrong idea about the schizophrenic disease. Now, seriously? The big issue for some was that the main character chose to go off of his meds whilst still managing to work and teach his students, having reasonings with his hallucination-friend, sharing the wrong idea that getting off of your meds is okay. Ugh, no. I bet this is not the message, as eventually Prof. Pierce is just an adult who sees that therapy is needed, but cannot be abused. Schizophrenia is a disease, a complex one which needs to be studied deeply, still. Also, not all the people diagnosed with schizophrenia are alike. The symptoms vary and the age when they first appear makes a huge difference for the prognosis. So every time we judge a tv-show, let’s remember the viewpoint and the actual fact that -this is fiction-, with a few hints of reality, yes, but basically fictional stories.

perception-eric-mccormack-1In conclusion, why was this show important, from my perspective? Because it opened a door on the so called “mental illnesses” that can be part of a person’s life without interfering so very much with their social life. I am not saying it does not affect their own lives, because it does, but it creates no harm, no danger for their social behavior if taken good care of and most of all, if responsibly studied and handled. An important part of mental health is how we perceive the world around us. A person with a mental disease may perceive things much differently than another person, but that does not mean it is the wrong way of perceiving it. Wouldn’t you sound crazy if you had X-rays in your eyes and told others you can see through their skin? Indeed. In many cases, therapy can help interpret and detect these perceptions, but these do not necessarily need to be corrected because someone evaluated and categorized them as distorted. They are simply different ways of perceiving the world around us that may make sense to a different being with a different sensibility, and sensitivity, than others. As they say, a word to the wise is unnecessary and If the cap fits, wear it.

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