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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

2 films on Huntington’s disease

 

Introduction

In this blog I want to present two freely available short films about Huntington’s disease (HD), an inherited progressive neurodegenerative disorder which causes abnormalities in movement and thinking and which is commonly associated with certain psychiatric conditions. In the first film, called Huntington’s Disease through Film, we hear about a Scottish family in which four adult children are positive for HD but are presenting at different stages of the illness. Three of them feature in the film. The film offers a really special insight into the clinical presentation of the movement disorder and speech impairment that manifests in HD. It also gives an important opportunity to understand how the sibling’s unaffected mother copes with the experience of caring for and supporting her children through her direct addresses to camera. The film was made by Mike Rea for The Scottish Huntington’s Association (SHA). The SHA is a charity which was established in 1989 by families living with the condition and has the aim of significantly improving the quality of life of everyone touched by Huntington’s disease. The charity also strives to increase knowledge about HD through training and education and this film is one such resource offered at their website. The second short film has been produced for the NHS Choices web pages about HD and is also posted on the Huntington’s Disease Association website. It features a 39 year old man, Lee, who has HD talking about how it affects him, and how his mother, who also suffered from HD, struggled with certain difficult behaviours. In this film, a consultant clinical geneticist presents information about the genetics and discusses some of the symptomatic treatments used.


The films

Huntington's Disease through Film from Mike Rea on Vimeo.

 

 

Relevance to the field of Mental Health

These are powerful short films, offering valuable clinical portraits of HD for anyone who is working in mental health services. Viewing the films alongside a reading of many excellent online resources about HD could offer an effective platform for learning about the condition. The Huntington’s Disease Association of England and Wales is a charity supporting people with HD which has a huge range of educational resources for patients, carers and the professionals involved in looking after them. They also won an award in 2014 for science communication at their website HDBuzz, which offers the latest HD research news ‘in plain, understandable language’. The HD society of America also has a huge amount of useful information on their website.

A reading of the article entitled Psychiatric and behavioural manifestations of Huntington’s disease by S Jauhur and S Ritchie published in Advances in Psychiatric Treatment in 2010  (Advances in Psychiatric Treatment (2010)16: 168-175) would provide an excellent additional resource for students and trainee psychiatrists alongside a viewing of these two short films. Readers seeking more information about the latest state of research into therapies for HD might be interested in a recently published review paper in the journal called Movement Disorders entitled Targets for future clinical trials in Huntington's disease: What's in the pipeline? by Edward J. Wild MD, PhD and Sarah J. Tabrizi MD, PhD (Movement Disorders; Special Issue: Huntington's Disease; Volume 29, Issue 11, pages 1434–1445, 15 September 2014) which has been made open access and is available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/mds.26007/full

 

• Minds on Film is written by Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Joyce Almeida

 

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Comments

Re: 2 films on Huntington’s di
A thought provoking film. I have recently been involved with the care of 2 patients in their 40s and also have been involved in communication with the mother of one of them.
I found her love towards her ill son unparalleled as she nursed her husband who suffered from HD for many years and then has been her son’s carer. During this period she herself suffered from cancer for a number of years but did not stop caring for her family. As highlighted in the movie the HD patients and their carers deserve the best support possible to alleviate at least part of their suffering
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About this blog

 

Minds on Film is a monthly blog that explores psychiatric conditions and mental health issues as portrayed in a selection of readily available films.

Please note that this blog may contain plot spoilers. Any views expressed are purely my own.

Dr Joyce Almeida
Dr Almeida is a consultant
psychiatrist working in the private sector in the UK.