Healing Voices, a feature-length documentary to be released globally on April 29, 2016, 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. The 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; Dr. Marius Romme, a founder of the Hearing Voices movement; and 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 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 taken root and are flourishing worldwide.
For 40 years I have worked full time along with thousands of other people to bring about a shift in community thinking about mental health liberation.
Decades ago, as a teenager, I suddenly found myself one evening in conversation with God. 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 had a vision: I needed to get to the President of the United States and be part of creating safe and healthy communities.
The next day I was put in a mental institution and labeled with chronic schizophrenia. My family and I were told that there was no hope for recovery, for a meaningful life in the community; I would always be on psychiatric drugs and in and out of mental institutions.
The experts were wrong. It took me many years and a lot of soul searching, grieving, forgiving and coming to understand the impact of trauma and oppression to learn that there was never anything wrong with me. Instead of a diagnosis, I needed compassion and supporters who believed that my mind had not gone anywhere and that I simply needed assistance to move from monologue (where I 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.
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 was their 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 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 and look at the possibilities. Was my “schizophrenia” madness or was it a vision?
The Healing 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." It 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; it is the manifestation of a movement. Each of us plays a role in creating inclusive, compassionate, healthy communities. By taking social action, we can all become the healing voice.
The goal of the film is to move viewers into specific actions by providing them with ideas, opportunities, and resources for follow-up discussion. These could be personal actions, community action, financial action, or political action.
Many people who see the film may be hearing new information that can be a lot to take in. Dialogue following the movie is an opportunity to process what we’ve learned and to discuss the questions raised by the film. The movie event will be a safe space where differing points of view may be shared in a healthy, nonjudgmental, compassionate way.
It is an honor to have lived long enough to contribute to the shift in consciousness that is part of this transformation. There is much work still to be done to create safe, strength-based, 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
Join us for the Healing Voices Documentary – April 29, 2016 in Southwest Florida
7pm at Unity of Sarasota Sanctuary; For more information contact 941-955-3301.
11am at Venice Holistic Community Center; For more information contact 703-862-6512
Both movie showings are followed by facilitated dialogue.
Movie Trailer http://healingvoicesmovie.com/healing-voices-4-29-16/