Not one to shy away from controversial roles, Academy Award winner Halle Berry returns to the silver screen tackling one of black America’s most taboo topics: mental illness. Inspired by a true story, Frankie & Alice tells the story of an African American go-go dancer named “Frankie” (Halle Berry) who struggles to live with dissociative identity disorder (DID) and the two personalities battling for control of her life. Not only is Halle bringing more awareness to mental health through her role in front of the camera, but also in her role behind the lens as Executive Producer and the film’s biggest champion.
“As an advocate for social change and women’s issues, it is my hope to shed light on mental illness, an inescapable condition that strikes people of every race, income or background every single day. Too many men and women, like Frankie, feel alone while facing the challenges of living with mental illness,” Halle said in a special video recorded for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
Dissociative identity disorder, previously referred to as multiple personality disorder, is a complex and severe dissociative disorder where two or more distinct identities/personalities completely control a person’s behavior at different times. DID is believed to be the result of extreme childhood trauma, typically repetitive sexual, physical or emotional abuse. Research has shown that the average age “alters” – the different identities – first develop is 5.9 years old. The separate, or split, personalities can vary in age, gender, race, mannerisms and even characteristics like needing glasses or having allergies. In the film, Halle’s alter personalities are a seven-year-old child named “Genius” and “Alice,” a Southern white racist woman.
In addition to having multiple personalities, other symptoms of DID can include:
- Mood swings
- Suicidal tendencies
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Confusion; periods of “blacking out”
- Panic attacks, anxiety
- Selective memory loss