Black Box gives mixed signals

Published 7:00 am Thursday, May 15, 2014


BC’s newest medical drama “Black Box” is about a brilliant neurologist, Dr. Catherine Black, who just so happens to be bipolar. She also has a bad habit discontinuing her medications and engaging in activities she otherwise wouldn’t.

Even though these can be symptoms of bipolar disorder, not all bipolars engage in activities portrayed in the program or discontinue their “meds” on a regular basis.

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Along the lines of movies such as “The Aviator” and “A Brilliant Mind” Black Box shows that people who suffer with mental illness can live a productive life and accomplish great things, but to wrap Dr. Black’s brilliance around her not taking her medication is a dangerous message to send.

Another mixed signal is that amazingly, Dr. Black’s bipolar manic episodes are short lived and she normalizes quickly once she resumes the medication. This does not hold true for some bipolar patients. Once medication is discontinued, a patient’s mental state can deteriorate rapidly and it could takes days or even weeks to readjust the medication into a state of normalcy.

Shows about the mentally ill in which the idea is  “decreased meds equal enhanced mental state” are extremely misleading. Bipolar people watch TV too! Even though a mass occurrence of bipolar patients avoiding the pharmacy is not an expected result from Black Box, it may give a few who suffer from this disease the idea that it is okay to do so.

Another problem with Black Box is there is no balance between taking meds and not taking meds. It’s either take the meds and be less of a person or don’t take them and be maniacally brilliant.

One redeeming quality about Black Box is it is opening up discussion on what was — up until now — a somewhat taboo subject. It also explores what can be the darker side of bipolar symptoms.



About Barbara Mizell

Barbara Mizell began working for the Picayune Item in 1993. She started during the "cut and paste" days of the newspaper, and was the first to create a newspaper page using the computer for the Item. She has served as Composing Supervisor and honorary Religion Editor. Of all the contributions she has made over her 20 years at the Item, she is most proud of the World War II book "The Greatest Generation." Barbara was born and raised in the White Sand Community on Lee Hill, she has also written many short stories about growing up on the hill.

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