Unlisted: A Story of Schizophrenia

Unlisted: A Story of Schizophrenia

Wed, 10/06/2010 - 9:00pm

On his good days, Unlisted filmmaker Delaney Ruston and her dad would go for rides on his scooter.

Credit: APT

The story of a woman struggling with her father's mental illness.

Richard Ruston was afflicted with paranoid schizophrenia before his daughter Delaney’s birth.  Early in her childhood, Delaney’s mother separated from Richard because of his erratic and often frightening behaviors, but still he tried to be a model dad and stay close to his daughter.  On good days, they would play chess and ride his scooter around her Berkeley neighborhood.  On bad days, however, paranoia would consume him, and Richard would show up at Delaney’s elementary school, crying and yelling for her in front of her classmates.

Unlisted:  A Story of Schizophrenia airs Wednesday, October 6 on PBS World (cable 524/DT21.2).

After a lifetime of shame, frustration and fear, Delaney made the painful decision to go into hiding from her dad.  To keep him away, she unlisted her phone number and address and severely limited contact with him.  As Delaney pursued a medical career and started a family, her father was not invited to her college graduation, her medical school graduation, her wedding, or into any other part of her life.

Unlisted:  A Story of Schizophrenia is a soul-searching examination into the nature of responsibility—of parents and children, of physicians and patients, of society and citizens towards those afflicted with severe mental illness.  As Delaney tries to rebuild her relationship with her father, UNLISTED examines the challenging family dynamics that mental illness dictates.  As she works to overcome the obstacles to getting her dad appropriate treatment, the film exposes the failings of the American mental health system as experienced by the families trying to navigate it.  And as Delaney traces the progression of Richard’s illness she studies his medical files and reads beautifully animated scenes from his autobiographical surrealist novel. Here UNLISTED enters the inner life of Richard Ruston with a clarity and affection missing from many films about people with mental illness.

Unlisted:  A Story of Schizophrenia has been heralded by critics and mental health advocates alike.  Steve Lopez, the LA Times journalist and author who befriended a homeless musician with schizophrenia and whose story became the basis for the film The Soloist, calls UNLISTED  “beautiful and powerful, a love poem.” 

“With UNLISTED, not only was I propelled to give a new voice to family, but also to help viewers understand why getting mental health treatment is so difficult,” said Delaney Ruston.  She adds that many people sit untreated on American streets because of misperceptions about schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.  “My dad represents a very common but hidden face of mental illness:  a regular guy who wanted a career and a family, but was constantly stymied by his disordered thought process.”