For the past 8 years, Academy Award-winning actress Halle Berry has been working on Frankie & Alice, a film about a 1970s-era black go-go dancer named Frankie who has dissociative identity disorder (DID). Frankie has two alternative identities: a scared 7-year old little girl named Genius and a white, bigoted Southern belle named Alice. With the care and support of her psychiatrist, Dr. Oz, Frankie is able to progress in her recovery and reclaim her life. The film is scheduled for release April 4, 2014.
DID was originally called multiple personality disorder because it involves a disturbance in a person’s identity in which 2 or more separate and distinct personalities control the person’s behavior at different times. The different identities of “alters,” as they are called, may exhibit differences in speech, mannerisms, attitudes, thoughts, and gender orientation.
In taking on the role of Frankie, based on the true story of Frankie’s life, Ms. Berry grew to understand the condition of DID and wanted the general public to have a better understanding of mental illness. In an interview published in the March issue of NAMI’s Advocate, she said:
“I want people to feel hopeful. Watching the character [of Frankie] come to terms with what her illness was and her process and acceptance of that—it was hopeful. Frankie manages to find her journey of recovery, to live her life, and to eventually achieve a full life. She will always struggle with her condition to some degree, for the rest of her life because it is part of who she is, but she has learned how to deal with it.. . . .when we can embrace recovery there is hope.”
Isn’t that the message we all need to absorb: to accept what is, no matter what the condition, to embrace recovery, and to maintain hope.
In her desire to portray mental illness, Ms. Berry says she was influenced by her mother who was a psychiatric nurse working with the VA for 35 years. Like so many of us, she has also had mental illness and substance abuse in her family. Her hope is that Frankie’s fight for self-worth, human compassion, and understanding will raise viewers’ awareness and de-stigmatize mental illness.