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Social Worker Hopes Film will Cast Light on Mental Illness Among African Americans

Movie poster.

Movie poster.

“Frankie and Alice,” a long-delayed movie starring Halle Berry as a woman suffering from multiple personality disorder, is finally coming out in theaters and social worker Terrie Williams said social workers and the public should see it.

“Someone who is working on the film reached out to me due to the work I do on mental health,” said Williams, MSW, who is author of a book on depression among African Americans, “Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting.” “I’m on fire and for me mental health in general but particularly in the (African American)  community is like what I live for and die for.”

In the inspired-by-true-life film Berry portrays Frankie, a street smart go-go dancer in 1973 Los Angeles. Frankie often forgets things she has done and slips into other personalities, including a racist southern white woman and a precocious child.

When she is almost killed running into traffic she is sent to a psychiatric hospital where she meets a doctor (actor Stellan Skarsgard) who helps her unravel past trauma that caused her mental illness.

Frankie arrives at a wedding reception exhibiting the personality of Alice, a southern white racist woman. Photo courtesy of the Commercial Appeal.

Frankie arrives at a wedding reception exhibiting the personality of Alice, a southern white racist woman. Photo courtesy of the Commercial Appeal.

“Frankie and Alice” was completed in 2010 and released in one theater and put back on the shelf. Berry was nominated for a Golden Globe award for her role.

There is speculation the film has sat on the shelf for more than three years because Hollywood is hesitant to bankroll a movie with an African American leading actress, according to this Daily Beast article. Berry had also acted in several box office flops around that time such as “Cat Woman,” lessening her appeal.

Consult the web for local screenings of “Frankie and Alice.” You can watch a trailer of the film at at Fandango.com.

Critics are generally giving “Frankie and Alice” good reviews although some said the plot is predictable and covers much of the same ground as “The Three Faces of Eve” and “Sybil,” past films about women with multiple personalities.

Terrie Williams, MSW.

Terrie Williams, MSW.

Williams, who owns a public relations firm in New York City, said the film is important, especially for the African American community. That is because like Frankie in the film, people living in urban areas suffer trauma but keep it a secret or repress it.

There is also a taboo among some members of the African American community about talking about mental illnesses, making it less likely some will seek help from professionals such as social workers and psychologists.

“I can’t bear the thought of people just not being aware of the help they need because of what? It’s a stigma?,” Williams said.

Social workers help clients overcome mental illnesses. To learn more visit the National Association of Social Workers’ “Help Starts Here” Mind and Spirit website. Williams is also a member of the NASW Network Advisory Committee, which gives the association advice on on to reach out to media and improve the portrayal of the social work profession. You can learn more about Williams through this committee bio.

 

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  1. I just watched this movie today because I came across it on Netflix. I’m currently in graduate school completing my MSW and this movie would be a great project for students to analyze.

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