Stories and News
Three weeks have passed since Mad in America’s International Film Festival took place at the Regent Theatre in Arlington, Massachusetts, USA. I’ve been spending a lot of time in solitude, reflecting and processing the whole thing, for in the Festival’s wake, I was taken over by a powerful, albeit interesting mix of great physical and mental fatigue… Read more →
The answer is that there is no (one) answer. That’s kind of the point of the whole thing. The answer is that we do far more harm by deciding what the answer is and forcing it on someone else than we do by not claiming to have any answer at all. The answer is that the answer is different for each person in some way. And so, yes, the answers are coming in that, each day, there are people who are making discoveries about themselves that are a part of changing their lives. The answers will always be coming as long as there are people who are supported to have the space to seek them out.
In Iceland, the film has been used as tool in our educational program for ninth and tenth grade, in high schools and the university in Reykjavík and Boston University and University of Mannheim in Germany. It is helping to fight stigma and prejudice, and offers young people an alternative understanding of emotional distress, and a perspective on the importance of taking care of your mental health. We’ve seen it open their eyes to the importance of taking care of others arround them and to show other people respect in every aspect of life.
I began to recognize the importance of language in discourse on the subject, having never made the connection between oppressive terminology vs. lived experiences of Madness. I began to realize through my experiences with Khari [whose story Mars Project is based on], both off-camera and as director, that there were broader socioeconomic circumstances that underscored his story and were all too true for others sharing the same psych-labels.
During my past struggle within the traditional mental health system, processing a toxic psychotropic medication, and an alleged diagnosis of Bipolar disorder back in 1993, I never gave up hope that I would get to the root cause of my symptoms. What became apparent to me in 2010, as I officially detoxed lithium and addressed healing root causes of my symptoms, was that humanity is facing a serious crisis and global mental health epidemic.
realized, over and over again, that I was seeing patterns in the mental health system—and the only people who were really hearing my message were my clients. And often they knew this message already, because they’d lived it. I wanted to reach more people—and not just “clients”—therapists too, and family members. So I made my first film in 2007, eight years into my therapy career, and then…well, let’s say I just started reaching a huger, wider group of people. And that was very satisfying. It motivated me in a whole new way. And it inspired a shift in my life that I never really expected. After all, I wasn’t a trained filmmaker—I was just someone who was moderately tech-savvy and had a strong message and a lot of drive. And so, without even planning it, a shift came in my life—and eventually making films that reached a lot of people became more tantalizing to me than being a therapist.
Dr. DeSole was intellectually influenced by cultural anthropology but also by the work of the Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing as well as the writings of Dr. Thomas Szasz, who wrote among many books The Myth of Mental Illness. (Dr. Szasz was a personal friend of mine. I made a documentary about his life and work, called The Last Interview of Dr. Thomas Szasz.) Dr. DeSole was acutely aware of the opposition to his work with patients by not only the other attending psychiatrists but also the relatives of the patients and owners of the halfway homes who preferred that their tenants be passive and somnolent instead of active and lively.
When I was twenty-one years of age, twenty-one years ago, I experienced what I now refer to as a spiritual awakening. I knew that there were numerous flaws and damage being done within our current Western medical model of mental health care. I left the psychiatric ward in May 1993 and set out on a mission traveling the world and seeking out all forms of integrated medicine and therapies to understand and get to the root cause of my symptoms. I feel blessed in that I accomplished my personal mission to abundant health.
I’d been working on a documentary project film about R.D. Laing, whose work I’m very interested in. One of the things that Laing was notable for was challenging the totalizing mental health orthodoxies of his day, and trying to understand the experiences of people diagnosed with ‘schizophrenia’ from their perspective. It is profoundly puzzling to me that forty years later, this idea still seems radical in mainstream mental health. After a couple of years of developing the film and trying to find the right story angle, the penny finally dropped: it should be told from the perspective of people with the diagnosis. That would be the most fitting and powerful way of telling a story about the contradiction between the medical explanation of ‘schizophrenia’ and the way people with the diagnosis understand their experiences.