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Depression, Grief, Loss in “Ordinary People” Film Essay


What I Liked About the Film

Ordinary People revolves around varied expressions of loss and grief by family members. What I liked about the movie is the way the main characters evolve during the story. It centers on family members and their emotional experiences, giving visible insights into the learning and improvement of each person as the film progresses. I also like the way the film portrays depression with clarity through the signs shown by Conrad.

What I Did Not Like About the Film

I did not like Beth’s (Conrad’s mother) character. She does not seem to sympathize with Conrad at any point and appears more preoccupied with her interests than those of her son. I also did not like the lack of cohesion in this family. They disagree on how to handle their son and on family vacations.

Conrad’s Diagnosis

Based on the DSM 5 criteria, Conrad would be diagnosed with depression. The five symptoms that inform this diagnosis include disinterest in everyday activities (swimming), low mood (he says that he is depressed), suicide attempt and suicidal ideation, inappropriate guilt or grieving (he blames himself for his brother’s demise during a therapy session), indecisiveness, and impaired social functioning lasting for two weeks. Another diagnosis would be post-traumatic stress disorder. He meets criteria A, B, and D of the DSM 5. He has exposure to trauma (death), re-lives the trauma surrounding his loss (intrusion), shows elevated anxiety (negative mood alterations), and re-experiences dreams of his brother’s demise.

The Mother’s Diagnosis

The primary DSM 5 diagnosis for Conrad’s mother would be narcissistic personality disorder. The signs evident in this character include grandiosity (she wants the family to take a vacation away from Illinois), fixation on success/attractiveness and feeling of superiority (she claims that she has healed from the loss on her own). She also displays an unwillingness to empathize with others (Conrad and Calvin) and an arrogant demeanor – she leaves without bidding goodbye to her husband and son.

Examples of Stigma Related to Mental Illness

The mother is preoccupied with ‘what the neighbors will think’ about Conrad’s psychological problem. His classmates call him ‘crazy’ because he was hospitalized at one time. The coach is curious to know Conrad’s experiences at the hospital and the use of ECT. Lastly, the father appears over-protective due to the poor relationship between Beth and her son.

How Conrad Is Viewed at the Beginning and Towards the End of the Movie

Initially, Conrad appears emotionally troubled after being discharged from the hospital. He is persuaded by his father to see a psychiatrist. After resuming school, he quits the swimming team, and he is more isolated from his mother, father, and friend, Lazenby. However, he continues his therapy sessions with Dr. Berger, despite the lack of improvement. Towards the end of the film, Conrad reveals to the therapist that he feels guilty about his brother’s death. After this session, we see him improving significantly. As his relationship with Jeannine (girlfriend) blossoms, he relocates with his family to Evanston.

Conrad’s Lethality Risk

Conrad’s lethality risk seems to diminish as the film progresses. At the beginning, his suicide attempt and recurrent feelings of guilt over his brother’s death indicate a high lethality risk. In one instance, after reading the news of his friend’s (Karen) death, he goes into a trance-like state filled with suicidal ideation. However, towards the end of the film (after his emotional release at Dr. Berger’s office), his lethality risk reduces significantly. He does not feel bad or guilty about himself anymore, and he exhibits acceptance.

Conrad’s Therapist and Patient/Provider Relationship

In my view, a notable aspect of Dr. Berger’s care is his accessibility to clients at any time. Conrad calls him at late hours, and he agrees to meet him. He also builds a personal relationship with this client. As a result, Conrad opens up to him, which helps in his healing. I think Dr. Berger’s good rapport with his client did not violate professional boundaries but was of great therapeutic significance.

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IvyPanda. (2021, January 7). Depression, Grief, Loss in "Ordinary People" Film. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/depression-grief-loss-in-ordinary-people-film/

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"Depression, Grief, Loss in "Ordinary People" Film." IvyPanda, 7 Jan. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/depression-grief-loss-in-ordinary-people-film/.

1. IvyPanda. "Depression, Grief, Loss in "Ordinary People" Film." January 7, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/depression-grief-loss-in-ordinary-people-film/.


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IvyPanda. "Depression, Grief, Loss in "Ordinary People" Film." January 7, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/depression-grief-loss-in-ordinary-people-film/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Depression, Grief, Loss in "Ordinary People" Film." January 7, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/depression-grief-loss-in-ordinary-people-film/.

References

IvyPanda. (2021) 'Depression, Grief, Loss in "Ordinary People" Film'. 7 January.

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