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UBC prof reaches out with film
"Frames of Mind"
educates the public about mental health issues
by Megan Thomas / News Staff The Ubyssey
(volume: 84, issue: 32, 31 Jan 2003)

A professor at UBC is using films to bring information about mental health issues to the community in a monthly movie series called "Frames of Mind."

Dr Harry Karlinsky, the director of continuing medical education for UBC's department of psychiatry, created the series to help enlighten the public about mental illness.

"We feel that feature-length films and documentaries can be very useful in the educational field and because of our interest in that area we have launched a mental health film series," said Karlinsky.

On the third Thursday of each month, Karlinsky shows a film related to mental health at the Pacific Cinémathèque in Vancouver. Following the film there is a discussion by an expert in the medical field to elaborate on the issue featured. Audience members are then given an opportunity to ask questions and discuss the subject.

The films chosen for the movie night include both documentaries and mainstream flicks. Karlinsky says that he tries to pick films that are of excellent quality but that have largely escaped mainstream attention.

He feels that the medium of film is an excellent way to draw people out to learn in a creative way.

"The movies have really been an excellent springboard for discussion. In the audience you have consumers, family members, the public, you have your film buffs, [and you] have health professionals," explained Karlinsky.

The inspiration for "Frames of Mind" came from a similar project in Victoria called "Movie Mondays."

Bruce Saunders, the co-ordinater for Movie Mondays, says that educational film series are an excellent way to diseminate information about mental illness.

"The thing with movies is that they are popular entertainment. People trust movies, they'll go to a movie. They won't go to a lecture about [something like] schizophrenia," explains Saunders.

He also feels that there is a real potential for workers in the health industry to learn from the experience of watching films. That is where Karlinsky's vision for continuing education comes in.

By attending an event in Karlinsky's series, community health professionals enrolled in the Faculty of Medicine's continuing education program are eligible for credits towards their studies.

"A very powerful way to make your educational point is...to illustrate issues with images from film. A picture is worth a thousand words," said Karlinsky.

Karlinsky is also looking to reach out to undergraduate students. He recently brought the idea of movies for education to the attention of the UBC Pre-Med Society and the Health Sciences Students Association. Both groups are considering running a similar movie night on campus.

Amandeep Randhawa, vice-president of Pre-Med, feels that there would be a demand on campus for a series dedicated to films discussing medicine and the health sciences in general.

"We have done movie nights in the past and when we show a commercial film, we get very few people out. When we show a film related to medicine we get a lot more people - they want the exposure," said Randhawa.

Members of the community that attended last Thursday's screening, which focused on Alzhiemer's, were generally complimentary about Karlinsky's concept.

"I liked the discussion a lot simply because it gave me information I felt I needed to have," said Laura Kaufman, a visual artist in Vancouver. "I don't know about the mental health stuff because it is pretty heavy, but I like discussions of this kind. It makes the movies richer."

Copyright 2002 Ubyssey Publications Society