BIPOLARIZED: RETHINKING MENTAL ILLNESS Image

Rita Kotzia’s documentary offers a disturbing view on whether the use of psychotropic medication is creating more harm than good. The central focus is the life experience of Ross McKenzie, a Canadian who was diagnosed as being bipolar in his early twenties and was prescribed lithium by his psychiatrist.

McKenzie’s physical and emotional health did not respond positively to the medication, and he eventually balked at this solution after years of suffering. After several unsuccessful attempts to quit his prescriptions, he successfully underwent detox treatment at a Costa Rican facility and later used the services of a Toronto naturopath and a Colombian shaman as part of his pill-free healing process.

The film also follows McKenzie to a Philadelphia rally, where individuals in similar situations protest outside of an American Psychiatric Association conference about the medical community’s connections to the pharmaceutical industry.

The downside here, unfortunately, is McKenzie’s intense love of the camera – the film is so heavily burdened with hammy close-ups that it often feels like a feature-length selfie. And McKenzie’s decision to include a silly parody of a TV commercial suggesting that doctors are pushing addictive medications does not help matters.

With less self-indulgence by McKenzie and some more serious exploration of the subject, the film would carry more value. To its credit, however, the film opens a much-needed dialogue on whether an over-reliance on expensive medicines has become a too-convenient remedy for illnesses that can be treated through more holistic means.

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