It's come to this: The only way a mentally ill woman — a former movie star — can get psychiatric help is to go on Dr. Phil McGraw's daytime TV show and display her physical and mental breakdown to the world.
Alas, the piteous encounter Friday on Dr. Phil between the TV doctor and Shelley Duvall, the star of horror classic The Shining, ended with no apparent improvement in her condition, or likelihood that it will improve soon, given that Duvall rejected treatment.
"We will keep you updated on her progress and hope, hope, hope there is a happy ending to this story," McGraw concluded.
It was hard to see hope during the hour-long interview by McGraw of Duvall, who's now living a horror show of delusions and irrational fears as she drifts in and out of contact with reality. Even before the show aired, it was attacked on social media as blatantly exploitative.
Among those criticizing McGraw were
Viewers did not have to be doctors to see that Duvall, 67, once a bright-eyed actress/producer/writer of gamine appeal, is now shockingly changed — obese, physically deteriorated and deeply disturbed.
"I was a pretty girl, I was beautiful," she told McGraw, lamenting that she's now "grotesque."
Duvall sometimes displayed lucidity, intelligence and self-awareness but mostly she appeared to be trapped between the rush of disordered thoughts and her fear, suspicion and paranoia about everyone around her, including family, friends, nurses and McGraw.
McGraw tells viewers that Duvall's speech pattern displayed "clang associations," in which a mentally ill patient has trouble regulating her thoughts, "jumping from one thing to another without being able to stop."
Her "unusual beliefs," as McGraw put it, included her conviction that former co-star Robin Williams (Popeye) was still alive and "shape-shifting;" that there are recording devices and hornets inside her body; that "someone changed her appearance in the middle of the night"; that the Bermuda Triangle is on top of her; and that someone, perhaps the Sheriff of Nottingham, is trying to kill her.
McGraw was not clear on how he came to learn of Duvall's condition, but he said he and her family helped talk her into getting treatment at a mental-health clinic in southern California. The harrowing trip from her home in Texas to Calabasas is followed by Dr. Phil cameras as her mood ricochets from terror to hope and back to terror.
"Am I scared? Of course I am," she weeps in the car. "I want to get back on my feet again."
But once at the clinic, she refused any medication and declined to sign the paperwork authorizing treatment, so back home she went, McGraw explained. Now, he said, he's working directly with her mother, boyfriend and local mental-health professionals, using unspecified "alternative" methods to treat her.
At the beginning of the show, McGraw tried to explain why he was spotlighting Duvall, saying she had been living in isolation for more than a decade.
"She had been forgotten by the world and we could not walk away from her," he said.