Natalie Patterson, a Teaching Artist and Workshop Facilitator with Art with Impact asked participants in the workshop to think about how characters on TV with mental illness are portrayed. The answers were not positive and they described negative portrayals.
“That’s really important to note and to think about because this is the kind of media we consume regularly and it’s giving us really negative messages,” Patterson, the host of the workshop, said.
Art with Impact used videos created by different young producers and one organization to cinematically capture the trauma of a person who suffered from depression or anxiety.
Three award-winning films were presented in the workshop that used artistic license to bring to life the devastating consequences of mental illness.
The first film was “The Conversation That Never Happened” produced by Gordon Yao, a resident physician as well as a filmmaker. In the film, a child had a hard conversation with his mother about his struggle with depression and how it affected his schoolwork.
Yao’s goal in producing the film was to normalize conversations regarding mental illness in Asian families. Asian-North Americans are more at risk of depression and suicide due to a stigma barrier in the culture as well as the shame of seeking help, according to his film.
The second film was “Xiety” directed by Carlos Torres, an award-winning director, as well as lead editor and sound designer. Featured in the film are actor and director Karen Torres. This cinema artistically captured a woman who was having a panic attack at a restaurant. The film used creative illustrations, such as the woman submerged underwater or the woman running through a forest, to describe the feelings people may undergo in a panic attack.
Workshop participants responded to the film, commenting on the accuracy of the depiction of what one goes through during an attack. One participant felt their own anxiety triggered while watching the film and a couple of others were relieved to know other people also suffer from panic disorder.
The third and final film was “Staging Face” produced by Steph Young, Jake Ivany and Vie Jones, who is part of Asterix Media. In the film, three drag performers talk about their struggle to fit in a society that has yet to understand and accept their gender identity. They each reveal their personal and mental struggles in being accepted for who they are, such as being referred to with their proper pronouns. The only place they truly felt accepted and comfortable was on the stage in performing drag.
The film provided a raw view of how it is to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community but struggle to feel comfortable in society as their genuine selves. The drag performers experienced being laughed at or argued with when they corrected their peers on their proper pronouns.
The goal of the Movies for Mental Health workshop was to help attendees realize mental illness is real and that the stigma against mental illness is the biggest barrier that has prevented people from getting the help they need to cope and recover.
With a cinematic visual to capture the raw and real tragedies of mental illness, there is a hope that these films will open society’s eyes to the seriousness of mental health in an effort to erase the stigma that has prevented so many from getting the care that they need.