While watching the incredible film Changeling on the weekend I was struck with the terror that must be felt by people who are put into a psychiatric institution, knowing they don’t have a problem, but unable to convince their ‘minders’ otherwise.
Caroline Collins was placed into psychiatric care by the LAPD, after she tried to uncover a mistake they had made in the search for her missing son. Not wanting to be embarrassed by the mistake, the LAPD instead claimed Caroline had lost her mind. It wasn’t the first time they had tried to lock up a troublemaker in this way.
Upon Caroline’s admission to the institution, a patient in a similar situation gives her the following advice: “If you smile too much, you’re delusional. If you don’t smile, you’re depressed. If you remain neutral, you’re emotionally withdrawn.”
Of course Caroline tries to convince the head doctor and nurses that it is all a terrible mistake. You’d have to at least try. But after they put her in a straightjacket and take her struggling body to ‘Room 18’, she finally realises that nothing she says or does will help her escape: her fate is sealed and whatever she says will be used against her as further evidence of her unsound mind.
In the end, Caroline chooses the frank yet appropriate response to the doctor who ‘framed’ her: “Fuck you and the horse you rode in on.” And I think that’s exactly what I’d say too.