David and I watched the movie "The Soloist" last night. It's the story of a LA Times journalist befriending a homeless street musician struggling with schizophrenia. Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx do an outstanding job playing the leads, and the music is an added bonus. I thought it was a moving and compassionate story of mental illness and homelessness. The DVD has some additional features that are well worth watching. One of the directors of an agency in LA dedicated to helping those who are mentally ill and homeless makes the point that all of them are someone's brother, sister, father, mother, son, daughter. She also mentions that the cost of helping them is less than the cost of having them in the legal system. She gave some helpful hints about how to help this neglected part of the population and the joy that comes from serving them. The directors insisted on filming the actual location and used some of the homeless people there as extras in the movie. They learned that they don't have to fear those with mental illness and shooting the movie was a life-changing experience for them.
David struggled with it in parts because it hit too close to home. I offered to turn it off, but he said, no, he wanted to face his demons. He thought it was an accurate description of how mental illness feels. I worried about it affecting his mood, but he got up this morning willing and ready to keep fighting his disorder. His illness is far milder than that of the musician, Nathaniel Ayers, but he asked me why it is that he has a home and a loving family while so many others with his condition don't. I don't have a good answer for that, but we feel grateful that he does. He says the movie gave him additional motivation to staying on top of his disorder.
I was intrigued by the story, so I read a little more about it online, and ordered the book from Amazon. Steve Lopez is the journalist who took an interest in the homeless population of Los Angeles, and found his life enriched by the experience. I saw a clip from 60 Minutes about the story, and thought I share. I'm glad to see an accurate, compassionate, respectful treatment of mental health issues in a movie. I hope more will be produced that will help ease the stigma.