To the editor:
I was stunned to read the review (July 10) of Dan and Paul Dinello's film Shock Asylum, shown at the Chicago Short Comedy Video and Film Festival. Depicting patients in a hospital being threatened with physical harm and being terrorized and tortured is cruel and dehumanizing. To set up an audience to laugh at intentional human suffering degrades the audience. Probably the Dinellos would not make a comedy film about prisoners subjected to medical experiments in the concentration camp at Auschwitz or expect audiences to laugh at violent scenes from Uncle Tom's Cabin. People who suffer from brain disorders deserve to be respected like all other groups of people.
Because this film reinforces fears about treatment for mental illness, it discourages people from seeking treatment. Today's treatments work, but, according to the report of the Patient Outcomes Research Team (available from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, 1998), to obtain the most successful treatment, consumers of mental health services and their families need to be educated. Therefore, I invite the Dinellos, instead of exacerbating prejudice against people with brain disorders and fear about treatment, to create a film that respectfully presents people who suffer from brain disorders and educates the public. I suggest the Dinellos contact the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill at 703-524-7600 or the Chicago office at 312-642-3338.
If the Dinellos want a target to satirize, I propose the health insurance industry, for their obstinate refusal to provide coverage for illnesses of the brain comparable with illnesses of other organs. They willfully ignore studies and experience that show equitable coverage brings minimal or no additional cost.
W. North Shore