People turned out at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center on Sunday to watch a documentary and public service announcement on youth mental health, a community event that organizers hope will stimulate discussion on the issue. However, it is not always easy to find the right words.
let the light shine A screening hosted by the Austen Riggs Center and the Berkshire International Film Festival showed part of a documentary titled “Hidden from all eyes, adolescent psychiatry” which included testimonials from 23 young people, aged 11 to 27, who discussed their own mental health experiences.
About 30 minutes of the documentary was shown; The entire film runs for 4 hours over two parts.
Erik Ewers, the director of the documentary, said one of its key strengths is enabling young people struggling with mental health to have experiences similar to their own. Many of the documentary’s participants shared their stories with the express intention of helping others going through something similar.
“That was their total, one purpose, to share some of the most private moments of their lives, some of the scariest moments of their lives — too bad they feel,” Ewers said. But in doing so, it empowered them—it gave them that power that neither of them had [co-director Christopher Loren Ewers] nor did I see it coming.”
Ali Borowsky, Founder and CEO of Find your anchorsaid it is important to share these experiences to help those who are struggling to understand that they are not alone in this.
“Pain shared is pain halved,” Borowsky said. “Hearing what someone else has been through and the true, deep power or knowing that you’re not alone is a game changer…throughout the whole thing I’m just here, nodding profusely to what everyone’s saying.” I might not have been able to say it eloquently, but god, that’s how I feel some days.”
Borowsky’s organization, Find Your Anchor, was the nonprofit highlighted in a public announcement produced on location by Kate Morris, who is married to Eagle co-owner Hans Morris.
The public service announcement, titled “Up On The Roof,” features a number of artists and young people across the country singing along to Carole King’s song of the same name. At the bottom of the PSA is a message about visiting the Find Your Anchor website.
Borowsky explained the vision behind her organization and the idea of helping people “find their anchor”. Simply put, an anchor is something that helps someone feel better — when listing a few of her own, Borowsky said her anchors have included steak tacos, chai lattes, and the movie Home Alone 2: Lost in New York .
With that in mind, the organization is putting together “anchor boxes” that convey encouraging messages, “good vibes and resources,” Borowsky said.
Amanda Sherman, producer of the public service announcement, said the nonprofit’s approach is a warm, colorful way of helping people outside of a clinical setting.
Putting together the PSA was a Herculean task, Sherman said, given that the documentary’s themes spanned the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii, and filming took place in the summer of 2021. She oversaw much of the filming remotely from Los Angeles, in some cases waking up until dawn and working with locally hired crews.
However, it was important to reach as wide a range of people as possible to highlight the fact that this issue affects everyone. She wanted members of different communities across the country to be able to see someone who looked like them and represented their experience.
“We wanted people to feel like we were talking to them,” Sherman said.
The renewed focus on mental health due to COVID-19 was a key reason for producing the PSA, and Sherman said she hopes the message will reach the people who need it.
“It didn’t go anywhere,” Sherman said. “Perhaps the silver lining of this horrible, horrible time is that mental health is getting the attention it deserves.
Ewers, who works with documentary filmmaker Ken Burns qho, a producer of Hidden In Plain Sight, said the documentary is an attempt to grapple with the reality of mental health and what we can do about it.
“We tell the whole thing,” Ewers said. “The hard stuff, but also the hopeful and positive stuff. This is a message that we hope will change the way we think and move the needle forward toward a better world and country to think about and bring to the fore. It’s a huge mission right now.”
Brenda Butler, director of adolescent and adolescent psychiatry at Berkshire Medical Center, said she hopes the documentary will be shown widely — in every school district, in fact. It covers the complexity of the issue and the challenges in solving it.
Butler said one of those challenges is access to care, particularly quality care, an issue that has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Between a shortage of workers and structural inadequacies, those in need of care find themselves on very long waiting lists. She encouraged those struggling to access direct mental health care to see their pediatrician or GP if they need help.
Another challenge, Butler said, is children who struggle to conceptualize the complex emotions they are dealing with.
“Sometimes we have to put it into words for them because they have a hard time finding the words themselves,” Butler said.
Researcher Katie Lewis, who is currently studying the impact of loneliness in the pandemic era, said the documentary will help facilitate conversations for those struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts.
“When they’re in the thick of it, it’s very hard to find words for that emotional state,” Lewis said. “Emotional labels like sadness or even fear or despair just don’t capture the truly toxic, poignant feeling.”
The screening and forum aim to put the struggles of young people with mental illness in perspective
According to the organizers of the event, about 150 people attended the demonstration. The documentary is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime and the PBS website. Both options require payment to view. The PSA can be viewed free of charge youtube.