In this lesson, students examine common perceptions of and beliefs about mental illness and then "debunk myths" (many of which students will first cite). Students will take a specific look at methods for managing mental illness symptoms, support systems that enable people with mental illness to lead healthy lives, methods for coping with mental illness (and its stigmas) and the question of whether mental illness impedes moral responsibility, as it is sometimes perceived to do.
Mark Landis is one of the most prolific art forgers of the modern era — and he isn't in it for the money. In the last 30 years he's copied hundreds of pieces, from 15th-century icons to works by Pablo Picasso and even Dr. Seuss, then donated them to museums across the country. When a tenacious registrar discovers the ruse, Landis must confront his legacy and a chorus of duped professionals intent on stopping him. But Landis is a diagnosed schizophrenic, driven since his teens to escape "the life of a mental patient," and ending the con isn't so simple.
A cat-and-mouse caper told with humor and compassion, Art and Craft uncovers the universal in one man's search for connection and respect.
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One to two 50-minute class periods
By the end of this lesson, students will:
- Identify and deconstruct various myths/stigma associated with people living with mental illness.
- Explore concepts of mental illness and culpability.
- Formulate ways to educate others about mental illness stigma.
Prep for Teachers
Read the background section for information about mental illness and stigma to guide classroom discussion. Place several sticky notepads and markers in an accessible location in the classroom.
- Film clips from Art and Craft and equipment on which to show them
- Sticky notepads Markers
- Viewing Chart
1. Write MENTAL ILLNESS on a board or chart paper at the front of the class. Instruct students to take sections of a sticky pad (or a whole pad) and write one of their associations (a perception, a belief, a term or something similar) with mental illness on each sheet. Once the students have finished, have them post their sheets in a designated spot in the classroom.
2. Have student pairs review the various associations and begin grouping them, moving the sticky notes into categories they name (writing the category names on sticky notes as well) based on the associations. For example, there may be statements that say "can't work" or "can't hold a job," so they might group those together under the category of employment. Or, some statements might say "commit crimes" or "don't know right from wrong." These might fall under the category of behavior or responsibility. One category should be types of mental illness (if students do not come up with this category on their own, you might create the category and ask students to come up with associations).
3. Students will spend some time reorganizing the sticky notes, moving them among categories. Give them about 10 minutes (or more if time is not limited). Once time is up, discuss the categories with students. At least some categories and notes are likely to offer myths, stereotypes, stigma-based ideas and other concepts that do not place mental illness in a favorable light.
4. As students review the statements, ask them to reflect on what they indicate about people's perception of mental illness. Probe with them the common sentiments that seem to exist among them (it is likely that there is some overall negative or stereotyped perceptions) and where they think those perceptions originate (media, books, peers, real-life experience).
5. Explain that they will have the opportunity to revisit these views as they learn about art forger Mark Landis. Provide some background on Landis and the film.
6. Distribute the Viewing Chart and review with students. Tell students that as they watch the following clips, they should be on the lookout for items that fit the categories listed on the chart and jot down observations in the appropriate spots as they observe them in the segments. Show all the clips, in order.
7. Ask students what their take is on Mark Landis and how his mental illness figures into his life. Invite students to flesh out their observations using the Viewing Chart (have them discuss by category). For example, under Coping, students describe how Landis negotiates his mental illness; under Support, students describe how he works with his caseworker.
8. Briefly probe with students the concept of mental illness and moral responsibility. Note that Mark Landis forges art, but does not profit from his forgeries and is therefore not committing an actual crime. In this case, does Landis's mental illness make him less culpable of his forgery because it serves as a coping mechanism that relies on his artistic talent? Are his actions understandable? Are they excusable?
9. OPTIONAL (but recommended): If time permits, divide students into pairs. Have them read "Successful and Schizophrenic" http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/27/opinion/sunday/schizophrenic-not-stupid.html. Then have them process what they read using the Think-Pair-Share approach http://www.readwritethink.org/professional-development/strategy-guides/using-think-pair-share-30626.html.
10. Invite students to revisit their earlier statements. Based on how Landis negotiates the world and his mental illness (and based on The New York Times piece, if they have read it), how have they changed some or all of their views of mental illness, particularly with regard to competency, functioning in the world, awareness and similar aspects? It might be helpful to identify a range of mental illnesses, including depression, to point out that even illnesses that pose great challenges can be manageable and people with them can live healthy lives with the right support and treatment. Given that, ask students if a person living with mental illness that is well managed is truly different from someone who doesn't have a mental illness.
11. Ask students how they would debunk mental illness "myths" among their peers or in the school community to create awareness of and reduce the stigma associated with those who live with a mental illness.