A Classroom Discussion Guide
These questions may be useful in initiating discussion with students
after they watch the film Imagining Robert. Since the film is 54 minutes
long, there may not be ample time to discuss the issues raised in the
film during the same class period that the film is shown. Students can
be asked to submit written answers to selected questions from the list
Robert and his Family
Robert and his Family
1. What are Robert's strengths? Explain how these strengths have helped
Robert cope with his illness.
2. How would you describe the relationship that Jay and Robert have
with each other? What does Robert need and want from his relationship
with Jay? What does Jay need and want from his relationship with Robert?
3. Think about relationships you know between adult siblings. How is
the relationship between Jay and Robert the same? How does it seem to
4. How has the relationship with Jay helped Robert's treatment?
5. Why do you think Governor Cuomo responded to Jay's letter? What
were the consequences of Governor Cuomo's response?
6. What did you learn about Robert's relationship with each of his
parents? What did you learn about Jay's relationship with each of his
7. How did you react when you learned that Jay's and Robert's mother
and father moved to Florida?
8. How did you react when you saw Jay's and Robert's mother in the
nursing home in Florida?
9. In the film Jay said, "I think people who haven't been through
this don't know the toll it takes on families." He quotes his mother
as having said, "Nobody knows what it's like to have a son, to
have a child with mental illness. It's worse than death." Discuss
the toll Robert's illness has taken on his family.
10. What role do you think families should play in terms of care of
those with chronic mental illness? How do you think the family burden
can be lessened?
11. What are Robert's symptoms? Use information that you learned from
Jay, Robert and Robert's diary, as well as from observing Robert's behavior
directly in the film.
12. What ideas do you have about the etiology (origin) of Robert's
mental illness? Which biological, psychological, and/or sociological
theory(ies) do you think best explain the origin of his illness?
13. According to the information presented in the film, what forms
of treatment has Robert received? Jay and Robert expressed anger at
some of this treatment. Give examples.
14. What do you think has been the impact of Robert's repeated hospitalizations
on the progression and maintenance of his illness?
15. Through the years Robert has been treated and cared for by many
different professionals and staff persons. Give examples of both good
and bad treatment.
16. What are Robert's daily activities at Fountain House?
17. Describe Robert's living situation at Project Renewal.
18. What do you think has been most helpful in stabilizing Robert's
condition, so that he has not had to return to a psychiatric hospital
for the past few years?
19. Based on what you saw in the film, how hopeful are you about Robert's
future? What do you think the future holds for Robert?
20. Based on what you saw in the film, what do you think is essential
to improving the lives of those with chronic mental illness?