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(Jan 11, 2013)
MENTAL is a documentary that observes the complex world of an outpatient mental health clinic Chorale Okayama in Japan, interwoven with patients, doctors, staff, volunteers, and home-helpers.
People with various mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, panic disorder, and personality disorder visit Chorale Okayama to see Dr. Masatomo Yamamoto. They are men and women of all ages, with diverse backgrounds and various attitudes to their own illnesses.
There is an elite businessman who worked too hard and was diagnosed with "burn-out syndrome." There is a woman who has suffered from an eating disorder since somebody said to her that her legs were too fat. There is a mother who ended up killing her own newborn baby. Because of their illnesses, some attempt suicide repeatedly, and others actually kill themselves (As of today, two of the patients in the film have committed suicide). Some have been dealing with their illnesses for decades, and have developed their own philosophy, religious faith, or artistic expressions. Some hide their illnesses even from their family members and friends, while others give lectures to reduce prejudice and misunderstanding about mental illness.
When Dr. Masatomo Yamamoto, founder and director of Chorale Okayama, worked for a mental hospital, he questioned why the locks installed on the doors of the wards could only be unlocked from the outside. "These locks are not for patients but for doctors and staff," he thought. Then, he became a pioneer in the movement to get rid of locks from psychiatric wards. At Chorale Okayama, he tries to support patients so that they will be able to live in society, not locked up in hospitals. He created two kinds of workplaces for patients: Pastel, a milk-delivery service company, and Mini-Chorale, a small restaurant.
However, the situation surrounding mental health care in Japan is not so forgiving. Suffering from budget deficits, national and local governments are cutting costs, grants, and services toward mental patients and institutions.
MENTAL depicts various aspects and problems of mental health, showing such scenes as consultations and treatments of patients by Dr. Yamamoto, education of nurses, waiting rooms filled with patients, staff members negotiating with government agencies to maintain services, activities at Pastel and Mini-Chorale, and home helpers supporting patients living at home. It also depicts the daily lives and candid faces of patients, revealing their philosophy, sufferings, anxiety, and joy.
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