Watch/read/listen as Mike Veny, Robert “Cozmo” Consulmagno, Stephanie Sikora, and Danielle Hark describe their turning points, those moments when life shifted towards a healthy future with mental illness.
These can link you to longer features that give a bit more depth to each person’s story.
So, if you need a little boost during your day, connect with us for messages of hope and inspiration. OC87 Recovery Diaries. Stories of mental health, empowerment, and change. Stories about people, not diagnoses. Your story.
I am old enough to remember a time before social media. In fact, media in the house in which I grew up consisted of:
– a daily newspaper
– a radio in the kitchen (mostly music)
– a remote-less television that featured three main networks, some secondary channels (for watching reruns of Bewitched and Gilligan’s Island) and PBS.
I called friends from a rotary (!) telephone that was wired and mounted to kitchen wall, and I wrote letters on actual paper to friends and relatives who lived far away.
My life was easily compartmentalized — school life, neighborhood life, family life — and rarely did they intersect. In fact, it was a bit disconcerting when they did. For example, it was always strange to bump into a teacher in the supermarket — it mixed up my idea of who that person was; where they belonged. Of course, part of me understood that all teachers (even mine) went to the supermarket; I just didn’t need to witness it firsthand. When my worlds collided in unpredictable ways, it was unsettling.
Social media has mixed that all up. And, honestly, I struggle with it.
I am drawn to social media like a fly to honey. I use it to promote my work, I love finding out news about my dozens of relatives who live all over the country, and I am often inspired by the creativity displayed by friends and strangers — especially, these days, in the realm of political criticism and satire. Plus, I’m a documentary filmmaker who loves to observe and consider human nature. Every tweet, post or picture reveals something about the sharer, perhaps in ways he/she didn’t intend. It’s fascinating stuff.
However, I really have to work at controlling my impulse to check Facebook or Instagram (the two platforms that I understand. I’m the opposite of an early adaptor, if you know what I mean) so I don’t get sucked into a social media vacuum, emerging minutes (hours!?!) later without any understanding of how much time has passed. And, if I’m honest with myself, I don’t always feel great about myself after spending time on Facebook. Although I try not to, I often feel jealous of that perfect vacation, that beautiful meal, that stunning achievement. My New Year’s resolution was to limit the use of social media, and I do find that a conscious effort to do so has positively affected my demeanor.
That said, I worry about my kids, and am conscious that a new important parenting responsibility is to help them use social media safely and wisely. I have two children — a teenager and a pre-teen, and I see how they are growing up with technology and its byproducts as a constant in their lives. A recent report by the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK has come out with some bracing news about the effect that social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat have on young people’s mental health.
Their study, #StatusofMind, surveyed almost 1,500 young people aged fourteen to twenty-four on how certain social media platforms impact health and well-being issues such as anxiety, depression, self-identity and body image. All demonstrated negative affects overall on young people’s mental health. The researchers concluded that Instagram is the most detrimental social networking app for young people’s mental health, followed closely by Snapchat. But the conclusions aren’t black-and-white: whatever is? While Instagram negatively impacted body image, sleep patterns and added to a sense of “FOMO” — Fear of Missing Out — the image app was also a positive outlet for self-expression and self-identity for many of its young users. The good news is that YouTube was found to have the most positive impact on the young.
So, what do we do with this information?
I agree with Sir Simon Wessely, President of the UK’s Royal College of Psychiatrists, who supports an education-based approach to social media and who also warns that demonizing social media is not the answer:
“I am sure that social media plays a role in unhappiness, but it has as many benefits as it does negatives,” he said. “We need to teach children how to cope with all aspects of social media — good and bad — to prepare them for an increasingly digitized world. There is real danger in blaming the medium for the message.”
In that light, we are offering new “social media friendly” versions of some of our OC87 Recovery Diaries videos in hopes of brightening up what can often feel like a gloomy space.
EDITOR IN CHIEF / EDITOR: Gabriel Nathan | DESIGN: Leah Alexandra Goldstein | PUBLISHER: Bud Clayman
The language of film is well-suited to explore the journeys of the mind. I have been so very lucky to work with men and women who agree about the potential of this kind of storytelling; who are also invested in sharing journeys of recovery that inform and inspire. My colleagues have enthusiastically embarked with me to tap into the extremely vulnerable, but ultimately triumphant, adventure of translating these stories for the screen.
My personal history with the powerful combination of mental health and film started with OC87: The Obsessive Compulsive, Major Depression, Bipolar, Asperger’s Movie, a feature film that I directed with Bud Clayman and Scott Johnston. OC87 is a moving, insightful, and often funny film that tells the story of Bud Clayman’s own mental health recovery journey, in which filmmaking plays a significant role. We learn about Bud’s personal history as well as his hopes to pursue a career in filmmaking. Throughout the film, everyday activities are depicted that, for Bud, (and for many others, in fact) can be quite challenging — riding a bus, walking down the street, or ordering at a restaurant. Sound design, slow motion, and other cinematic techniques are employed to recreate Bud’s lived experience for viewers. It was a risky undertaking, but it worked. Audience members strongly identified with Bud’s heroic internal struggle as he battled the everyday. “You gave my story the red carpet treatment,” said one beaming viewer to me after a screening. At that moment, I was moved to continue using my skills as a filmmaker to give more people’s stories the “red carpet treatment.”
Bud Clayman & Glenn Holsten during the filming of OC87
OC87 screenings around the country were followed by Q&A’s, where men and women would get up and share their own inspiring journeys of recovery. Each was a moving and valuable contribution to the understanding of mental health struggle, and most were filled with hope for positive and fulfilling lives. We wanted to find a home for these stories, and OC87 Recovery Diaries, the website, was born.
I am incredibly fortunate to be able to create short documentaries for the website that are inspired by the tradition started with the feature film OC87. For the past few years, Bud Clayman and I have directed stories that bring to light the lived experiences of recovery from mental illness, and show how people who live with mental health challenges create paths to meaningful lives. The rewards of crafting and sharing these short films are immense, and I’m very happy to share the news that a new, one-hour special for public television has been created, and will begin to be shared with public television stations this month. On May 18th at 10:00pm, viewers in the WHYY (Philadelphia) area can watch the film on WHYY TV 12. A wider PBS distribution will occur in October.
OC87 Recovery Diaries is a film about people, not diagnoses. The film is a collection of beautifully told short stories that inspire and empower, stories that generate discussion and awareness in an effort to dismantle stigma — all told by people moving through their own recovery journeys.
Here is a promo for the film that presents our players and their stories.
Video portraits include:
Stephanie Sikora, who uses equine therapy to help with her bipolar disorder and Asperger’s syndrome. Working with horses helps her control anger, frustration, and anxiety. Her trust in horses has allowed her to trust people.
Robert “Cozmo” Consulmagno, aka “Crazy Cozmo,” is a Marine Corps. veteran who lives with PTSD and bipolar disorder. Extreme physical exercise is his way of coping with the challenges of the trauma he experienced as a child at the hands of an abusive stepfather.
Mike Veny attempted suicide at age ten. He was expelled from three schools for behavior problems and was hospitalized repeatedly for psychiatric issues as a child. Today, he is an outspoken mental health advocate and drummer who is searching for a definition of healthy masculinity as he deals with depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and anxiety. Watch Mike Veny do the (near) impossible: interview his depression.
Sheri Heller is a powerful trauma survivor who now helps others who have experienced trauma. This short animated film artfully details her journey with a mother who had schizophrenia. Sifting through the wreckage of her childhood, she uses her creativity to help her channel the hurt and the pain. As a therapist, Sheri looks for beauty in the ugliness of the world and helps others to heal.
The staff members at Montgomery County Emergency Service (MCES), a psychiatric hospital in Pennsylvania, rush through busy, stressful days helping people in mental health crisis. But do they ever have time to look at one another? In 2014, they stepped way out of their comfort zones to slow down, and learn, and grow by rehearsing, producing, and performing Thornton Wilder’s timeless play, Our Town as a benefit for their patients, and themselves.
Hyacinth King traveled from private school to private hell as she wrestled with the toxic combination of schizophrenia, drug abuse, and homelessness. Eighteen years ago, she discovered Project HOME, and her life as an advocate for those who have experienced homelessness began.
Monica Rose, a young transwoman, talks about her experience with mental health challenges, homelessness, and finding her chosen family at The Attic Youth Center in Philadelphia.
Danielle Hark is a passionate mental health advocate and wellness warrior. She created the website Broken Light Collective to bring together images from photographers all over the world who live with mental health challenges. Although Danielle wrestles with many of her own mental health issues, she is also a stunning photographer who explores our delicate world with her camera.
On a personal note, I am indebted to all the wonderful people who help us craft these videos, including talented producers, directors of photography, assistant directors, sound recordists, editors, composers, animators, graphic designers, production assistants. The quality of the work reflects the respect the creative team has for the storytellers. Everyone who is touched by these stories is affected by these stories.
We will continue to promote screenings of the one-hour film throughout the year on this site and our various social media platforms. I hope you enjoy meeting these men and women as much as I have. Their brave and passionate journeys of recovery continue to inspire me, long after the filming and editing is over.
Those in the WHYY viewing area can watch the one-hour film live on Thursday, May 18 at 10:00pm or via Apple TV, Roku, or On Demand via the Local Tab on your PBS On Demand section.
For those outside the WHYY viewing area, stay tuned for updates on other screenings!
To be honest, Sharon Wise found me. And I’m so glad she did. (more…)
OC87 Recovery Diaries is proud to present the third and final part of a series of portraits of men who have participated in the Philadelphia’s Engaging Males of Color BEyond Expectations storytelling series.
This post features the story of, and interview with, Kamren Washington-Richards, a seventeen-year-old student who attends Boys Latin of Philadelphia Charter School. In addition to his studies, Kamren works at the Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia, through a program called PACTS – Partnerships for Advancing Careers in Technology and Science. (more…)
Men of color in Philadelphia are busting stigma by sharing their journeys of mental health recovery.
OC87 Recovery Diaries is proud to present the second part of a series of portraits of men who have participated in the city’s Engaging Males of Color BEyond Expectations storytelling series. (more…)
In the U.S., males of color are disproportionately affected by various forms of marginalization and adversity including violence, poverty, incarceration, lack of access to health care, low social status and trauma.
With the pressures of daily life and our societal stigma associated with mental health challenges, how can males of color engage in a thoughtful, honest and supportive dialogue about mental health?
In Philadelphia, they are doing it through the power of stories. (more…)
Sheri Heller is a clinical social worker who is in private practice as a psychotherapist, specializing in treating trauma and addictive disorders
Sheri’s mother, Pearl, lived with schizophrenia. As a result, her family lived in turmoil. She has spent much of her life living with the effects of her unhealthy relationship with both of her parents, sifting through wreckage of her childhood, and using her creativity to help her channel the hurt and the pain. A few months back, she sent us a moving piece of creative writing about their relationship titled “An Orphan’s Memorial to Her Dying Mother.” (more…)
Read the first part of the interview here.
OC87 Recovery Diaries is pleased to share this interview with Dr. Otto Wahl, a pioneering researcher who studies the impact of media images about mental illness on stigma. Throughout his career, Dr. Wahl has documented the damaging and inaccurate stereotypes of people who live with mental illness created by the media – in particular television, newspapers and dramatic films. (more…)
This is part one of a two-part interview. Follow this link to read the second installment of the interview.
In the U.S. we can talk about cancer, asthma, heart disease (or most any other disease, frankly) without worry of recrimination. Can the same be said for talking about a mental illness diagnosis?
OC87 Recovery Diaries was formed to tackle stigma. We are well aware that although there has been progress, stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination still exist. At its core, stigma is a fundamental lack of knowledge and misinformation about people who live with mental illness. More often than not, the media tends to confuse — rather than educate — the general public on matters of mental health, and stigma ensues. (more…)
When Alison Malmon was a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, her older brother, Brian, ended his life. Brian experienced depression and psychosis for three years when he was a student at Columbia University, but concealed his symptoms from everyone around him.
As Alison grieved the loss of her brother, she became aware that there was a lack of places on college campuses where students felt comfortable talking to each other about mental health and suicide. So she created her own space for such a dialogue. Alison founded Active Minds in 2003 (then known as Open Minds) at the University of Pennsylvania. (more…)
This is part two of a series on Mike Veny. Read and watch part one here.
I stumbled upon Mike Veny’s website — transformingstigma.com — while doing research for a story on mental health, and I was instantly drawn to his positive message of hope and action: transforming stigma into strength.
In his work, Mike shares a vulnerable side of himself to further his mission: preventing the loss of life due to suicide. For the record, Mike wrestles with many mental health challenges, and talks openly about his daily struggles with anger, depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. However, those diagnoses do not define Mike Veny. (more…)
This is part one of a two-part series. Here’s a link to part two where, through the magic of technology, Mike Veny interviews his own depression!
Mike Veny is an advocate who speaks boldly and truthfully about his journey and his mental health struggles. Mike Veny is an entrepreneur who makes a living inspiring others. Mike Veny is a drummer who breathes deep inside his spirit when he lives through his music.
Mike Veny is also a lifesaver. The first life he saved was his own. Now he’s making it his mission to use his life’s journey to help save others. Not only does he wrestle with his own set of mental health challenges, but he also wrestles with the idea of what it is to be a man with mental health challenges in today’s society. (more…)
A few months back, OC87 Recovery Diaries was sent a link to a song called “Bipolar-ish.” It was a funky, upbeat tune. The song was credited to an artist named H-Town Butta, and honestly, it caught me off guard. I loved the song’s friendly, pop sensibility, the layers of sound in the production, and the playful — yet honest — lyrics about her lived experience. (I can’t lie, my moods do swing, but that’s OK, it’s an everyday thing, first comes the joy and then comes the sadness . . .”). (more…)
Meet Danielle Hark, passionate mental health advocate and wellness warrior. And while she wrestles with many mental health issues, she is also a stunning photographer who explores our delicate world with the help of her camera.
In fact, she says, it was photography that saved her from death after one of her most severe “crashes” during a particularly dark time. (more…)
In May of 2013, 19-year-old Kevin Breel gave a TEDx talk in Ambleside, Canada. Eighty people were in the audience.
At the time, he was a recent high school drop out with ambitions of pursuing a career as a stand-up comedian. He was also a person living with depression. And wanted to tell his story to break the silence of suffering that he knew too well, a suffering that he imagined affected many other young people around the world. (more…)