There’s nothing funny about depression which is a debilitating mental illness and also one of the most common problems with more than 300 million people afflicted with it worldwide. It’s a Kind of a Funny Story, is a movie that tries to depict what most people with depression experience. Astris, a Temasek Polytechnic psychology student, provides a critical analysis of this movie to show how much truth there is in this movie.
Academic stress. Peer pressure. Relationship issues. Sound familiar? These are the very struggles that led sixteen-year-old Craig to develop clinical depression and suicidal ideation, severe enough for him to get himself checked into a psychiatric ward. Granted, Craig admits to his doctor near the start of the movie that he stopped taking his antidepressant, Zoloft (sertraline), cold turkey and without medical instruction, which likely triggered the steep decline in his mood. Kudos to Craig for seeking professional help of his own accord, but never stop taking your medications suddenly and without your doctor’s instruction!
Throughout the movie, Craig experiences symptoms such as difficulty eating, sweating from anxiety (which can co-occur with depression), as well as feelings of despair and low self-esteem. He expresses jealousy of his best friend Aaron who performs better than him at school and who is in a relationship with his crush, Nia. He mentions that while his parents care about him, his father puts pressure on him academically, while his mother doesn’t fully understand him.
Image creds: Blu-ray.com
However, Craig is still able to socialise with other patients in the ward, display romantic interest in a fellow patient, Noelle, and express himself artistically through drawing. Outwardly, one might not even guess that Craig is struggling with a mental illness at all. What this teaches us is that depression doesn’t have a standard “face”, and that the illness manifests differently in each individual. Not every person living with depression is always crying, or lying in bed all day like Craig’s roommate, Muqtada.
Craig narrates that he sometimes wishes he has an “easy answer” for why he is depressed, such as having been sexually abused as a child. The reality is that depression can have multiple, interacting causes and risk factors that range from biological, to social, to psychological, to environmental, and there might not be a single, clear explanation. For Craig, it is a combination of academic and peer pressure, problems communicating with his parents and the lack of a strong support system.
Craig receives psychotherapy during his six-day stay at the psych ward and participates in group rehabilitative activities such as art sessions, where he rediscovers his passion for drawing. He also befriends Noelle, who encourages him to express himself and helps him to put his school problems into perspective. Craig is eventually discharged from the hospital with a renewed sense of hope and a desire to live life to the fullest. Craig is lucky, as more often than not, recovery is a long-drawn process with ups and downs, and does not simply happen following a short inpatient stay.
A generally light-hearted movie, It’s Kind of a Funny Story manages to tell an engaging and considerably realistic tale of a teen with depression, although it is important to note that getting better is not as simple as finding a girlfriend or helping other people with their troubles (which Craig does throughout the film.) Real recovery is tough, but absolutely possible.