Healing Voices, a feature-length documentary to be released globally on April 29, explores the experiences commonly labeled as psychosis through the real life stories of three people, working to overcome extreme mental states and integrate these experiences into their lives in a meaningful way.
This film includes commentary from experts in the field including award-winning journalist Robert Whitaker, psychologist and social critic Dr. Bruce Levine, internationally known mental health consultant Will Hall who has lived experience of a mental health condition, and Dr. Marius Romme, a founder of the Hearing Voices movement, among others.
Healing Voices takes a giant step forward in the effort to transform mental health care across the U.S. This process of transformation can be traced back to 1969 when the seeds of a civil and human rights movement, both by and for individuals diagnosed with mental health conditions, were planted in the U.S. by people with the lived experience of mental health recovery. Those seeds have now taken root and are flourishing worldwide.
For 40 years, I have worked full-time alongside thousands of other people to bring about a shift in community thinking about mental health liberation. Decades ago, as a teenager, I suddenly became engaged in conversation with God one evening. At the time, I did not believe in God, so this was a startling event. I found myself catapulted into an altered state of consciousness. My senses became overloaded with information, and I received a vision—I needed to reach the President of the United States and be part of creating safe, healthy communities. That next day, however, I was placed in a mental institution and labeled with chronic schizophrenia. My family and I were told there was no hope for recovery or a meaningful life in the community. I would always rely on psychiatric drugs and care from mental institutions.
The experts were wrong, though. I spent many years soul searching, grieving, forgiving and coming to understand the impact of trauma and oppression to learn there was never anything wrong with me. Instead of a diagnosis, I needed compassion and supporters who believed that mymind had not gone anywhere, that I simply needed assistance to move beyond monologue—whereI was stuck in my own thoughts—to dialogue. Had the intervention been different, I would never have needed to be imprisoned and forcibly drugged for 15 months.
Yet, I have no regrets. Fast forward 35 years, and I found myself at the White House engaged in mental health policy development. People with lived experience of mental health recovery, like myself, had formed the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery (NCMHR), and I becametheir first director.
The mission of the NCMHR is to ensure that individuals with lived experience of a mental health condition “have a major voice in the development and implementation of health care, mental health and social policies at the state and national levels, empowering people to recover and lead a full life in the community.” My job included educating Congress and senior administration officials about changes needed in our mental health system to make this community inclusion a reality.
Those changes are, in fact, happening. The grass roots are blossoming, and this film is a watershed example of that. The invitation is to open our hearts and our minds by looking at thealternative possibilities. For example, was my “schizophrenia” madness, or was it a vision? TheHealing Voices movie is a one-of-a-kind social action event. It will bring together a virtual global community of individuals, groups and organizations, dedicated to promoting awareness and creating action around the critical social issue of emotional wellness and mental health. Healing Voices invites us to rethink our cultural understanding of mental health problems. It is a catalyst to reframe what we have learned about “mental health problems” and gives us a broader understanding of the depth of human experience.
People can—and do—recover from even the most severe mental health challenges. Their lives aren’t broken. Alternative approaches to supporting people through emotional crisis have proven to be highly effective. Social action films such as this one have made a significant impact on social consciousness and preceded social action. This is our intention, and you can be part of it.Together, let’s change the conversation.
Healing Voices is more than a film. Rather, it is the manifestation of a movement. Each of us plays a role in creating inclusive, compassionate and healthy communities. By taking social action, we can all become the healing voice.This film’s goal is to move viewers into specific actions by providing them with ideas, opportunities and resources for follow-up discussion. These could include personal action, community action, financial action or political action.
Many people who view the film may be hearing new information that can be challenging to absorb. Therefore, a facilitated dialogue, taking place after the movie, will provide anopportunity to process what we’ve learned and discuss questions raised by the film. This movie event will be a safe space where differing points of view can be shared in a healthy,nonjudgmental and compassionate way.
It is an honor to have lived long enough to contribute to the shift in consciousness that has become an integral part of this transformation. Yet, there is much work still to be done toward creating safe, strength-based and healthy communities where everyone is respected and included in the fabric of society.
“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed.”
—Cesar Chavez, American civil rights activist
The Healing Voices premier will take place at Unity of Sarasota, located at 3023 Proctor Rd, Sarasota. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. The movie screening will be from 7–8:30 p.m., followed by a dialogue, from 8:4 –9:30 p.m. For more information, call 941-955-3301. To view the movie trailer, visit HealingVoicesMovie.com/Healing-Voices-4-29-16.