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Movie explores effects of schizophrenia on family, society

It’s a mental disease that affects 1 percent of the population, yet has an effect on everyone around them.

One family’s bout with schizophrenia is the topic of a documentary by longtime St. Louis News Anchor Art Holliday, who will present his award-winning documentary, “Before They Fall Off the Cliff,” at 2 p.m. April 3 at Mineral Area College’s Community Center.

The presentation is free and open to the public, and is sponsored by Mineral Area College, the ABC-123 Daycare and Preschool of Bonne Terre, Beverly Skaggs and the Park Hills Head Start Program, and Mineral Area Regional Medical Center.

Dr. Fred Nute, social sciences instructor and chairman of the department, said the documentary “presents a great opportunity for us to increase public awareness of mental health issues, especially learning more about the fallout that mental illness can have on the family, as well as society at large.”

Released in 2002, the hour-long film is about a St. Louis family’s tragedy with schizophrenia. It is Holliday’s first documentary, and has received wide critical acclaim from mental health organizations in St. Louis and beyond.

It recounts the events before and after the 1994 murder of Nancy and James McBride by their youngest son, Matthew, who suffers from schizophrenia.

Matthew had long struggled with his mental illness, entering and exiting doctor’s offices and frequently threatening his parents, who eventually had to install deadbolts on their doors when Matthew became a man.

According to his brother, Mark, Matthew was OK if he took his prescriptions faithfully. Unfortunately, that happened too infrequently, and his condition was exacerbated by illegal drugs.

At one point, Matthew had voluntarily checked himself into a St. Louis mental hospital, but under severe delusions, he asked to be released. Staff members called his psychiatrist, who allowed Matthew to walk, even though the doctor was supposed to personally evaluate Matthew before doing so. Thirteen hours later, Matthew stabbed his parents to death. Three months later, his psychiatrist committed suicide.

Matthew’s siblings have forgiven him. Mark McBride collaborated with Holliday on the production of the movie, giving him unlimited access to his family’s story in order to bring awareness to the nature of schizophrenia and its ripple effects, and emphasize the importance of detecting it and dealing with it as early and as appropriately as possible.

The third partner in the production of the movie was Jon King, an award-winning editor at KSDK who had edited some promotional trailers of the documentary.

The documentary comes to MAC through an adjunct instructor at MAC.

“I saw the documentary when I attended the St. Louis International Film Festival,” said Janet Barton. “It was so impressive and just stuck in my mind. When the topic of schizophrenia came up in one of my classes last year, I took a chance and e-mailed Art Holliday to see what the chances were in bringing it down here. He was extremely accommodating and very interested in bringing it to this area.”

Although Holliday is achieving growing national fame as producer, director and writer of “Before They Fall Off the Cliff,” his local following knows him from his 25-year career at KSDK Channel 5 from St. Louis.

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