When We Embrace Recovery There is Hope

Maureen MurdockMental Illness11 Comments

Frankie & Alice Movie

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.

11 Comments on “When We Embrace Recovery There is Hope”

  1. I developed new appreciation for the role of family support in relation to DID when I saw the TV series (via Netflix) called “The United States of Tara” about a mother, married with two teenage children and a very supportive husband, who all face together the sometimes humorous (hey, it’s TV), sometimes horrifying manifestations of the different personalities emerging from Tara. The family members obviously have their scars and they keep having to face the humiliations that erupt with Tara’s “alters” outbreaks, but at the same time, the family works together to try to understand and support their wife/mother. And having a good therapist makes a huge difference, too, as that film shows! All families and folks coping with mental illness should be so lucky.

  2. My exposure to these complex issues is only beginning because of Maureen. I appreciate hearing about stories like Frankie’s. I wonder what people like me can do besides develop awareness and sensitivity.

    1. Thanks for asking, Wendy. In answer to your question, awareness is the 1st step and then staying informed about mental health issues through NAMI, writing to your Congressional representatives like Lois Capps, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and asking them to sponsor legislation for more funding for mental health research and treatment, and supporting films like Frankie and Alice so that more people become aware of the struggle and success that folks who suffer with a mental illness have. Awareness of both the AIDs crisis and the Cancer crisis was the first step in getting treatment for those afflicted with those diseases.

  3. Great story and I look forward to seeing Frankie and Alice–we all need to have gratitude if we can manage to avoid the bullet of mental illness.One life to live and it is so very difficult for quite a few who have mental illness.

    1. I’m not sure we can “avoid the bullet of mental illness” because mental illness is a disorder of the brain, but we can certainly learn how to bring attention to the need for research and treatment for those who suffer with a brain disorder. Thanks for commenting.

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