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From a child's point of view.

Claireece Precious Jones, an overweight, illiterate 16 year old who lives a desperate life in 1987 Harlem, is the subject of the film "Precious," which showcases the struggles of the abused, misunderstood adolescent.

Promoted by entertainment giants Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, the 2009 film portrays a cacophony of experiences. It is raw and overwhelming at times, with extreme language and violence. Mental health counselors who use this film with a client population must preview it a number of times. Selected scenes could be used within an educational setting, too.

Since the title character, Precious, experiences all types of abuse--physical, emotional, and psychological--all are shown in the film. It also shows coping skills, such as fantasy work, journal writing, mentoring, and hope.

In an initial scene, we see Precious creating a fantasy while sitting in her math class. As she appears disinterested and removed, there is a voice over, "... I don't say nothing. Every day I tell myself, something going to happen. I'm going to break through or someone is going to break through to me. Sometimes, I'm going to sit up front ..." In addition, she often dreams herself as a thin, white woman, imagining that her life would be better had she been born looking different.

The following scene shows Precious sitting in the principal's office of her junior high school, wondering why she has been summoned there. We find out that she is pregnant with her second child. Ms. Lichtenstein, the caring principal asks, "Are you pregnant?" No answer, and then Precious stands up to leave but is told to sit back down. "This is your second pregnancy. What happened?" Precious answers, "I had sex."

The principal has a plan and wants to have a parent interview. Though Precious knows this is not a good idea, Ms. Lichtenstein comes to the tenement where Precious lives, and through the intercom she tells Precious of an alternative school, Each One, Reach One. Mama is outraged that the principal has come to her door and tells Precious that school is not for her "fat ass." Instead, "Get yourself to the welfare office" is her answer. As Precious turns toward her, a fry pan is seen hurling through the air and hitting Precious in the head. During her blackout, we see a montage of memories and fantasy: food cooking, her father raping her, and Precious appearing as a movie star and adored by her fans. The next scene shows the mother throwing water on Precious' face to wake her up, followed by another series of abusive epithets and violence.

The movie makes a dramatic shift once Precious attends her new school. The director has the old 1930s favorite, "Did You Ever See A Dream Walking" playing in the background. Here she meets a class of misfits like herself and the teacher, lovely Ms. Rains, who encourages all of them to journal as a coping skill. The teacher and the students become a family of sorts and show Precious how she can get out of her situation at home.

Finally, Ms. Weiss, who works at the welfare office, ultimately breaks through Precious' tough exterior. Here there is some humor injected, and Ms. Weiss tells Precious that she wants her to be safe and cared for in a positive way. She tells Ms. Weiss the truth about her father raping and impregnating her.

In a much later scene, the audience sees how Precious' mother is just a hurt, abused "little girl" in a woman's body. As a viewer, we are glad that Precious has a way out.

This powerful movie ultimately reflects on the importance of hope and faith in self. Some films can be watched at home and then discussed in session. Not this one! Although, some may feel it is too stereotyped and the redemptive aspects too sugar-coated, the film does show a way out for populations where hope is all that they have.

Until next time, Nancy

By Nancy Heller Moskowitz, LPC, NCC, CCMHC, AMHCA's Public Awareness, Advocacy & Marketing Committee
COPYRIGHT 2010 American Mental Health Counselors Association
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Title Annotation:Reflections: On Raising Mental Health Awareness
Author:Moskowitz, Nancy Heller
Publication:The Advocate (American Mental Health Counselors Association)
Article Type:Report
Date:Jul 1, 2010
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