Our nation’s jails and prisons have replaced hospitals as the primary facility for mentally ill individuals.
This powerful sentence is from a 2014 report from the Treatment Advocacy Center, a national non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating legal and other barriers to the timely and effective treatment of severe mental illness in the U.S. It’s a heartbreaking, frustrating, and sad reality. Even more paralyzing is the fact that included in this population are men and women in prison who suffer with mental illnesses that prevent them from being able to advocate for themselves.
Here’s a good example: J.H. (a pseudonym to protect his identity) is a homeless man in his late 50s from Philadelphia who suffers from schizophrenia. He was charged with retail theft for stealing three Peppermint Pattie candies. And although a court ordered him to receive mental health treatment, J.H. spent 383 days in the Philadelphia Detention Center awaiting an opening for such treatment at Norristown State Hospital. 383 days!
This happened in spite of the fact that federal courts have found that delays of longer than seven days between a court’s commitment order and hospitalization for treatment are unconstitutional.
Robert “Cozmo” Consulmagno is a man with energy to spare and a fight inside. And while he faces human opponents (both on a jiu jitsu mat and in a boxing ring), his toughest battle is the fight that goes on inside his head. Cozmo is a Marine Corps. veteran who lives with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and bipolar disorder.
His wounds run deep. In addition to whatever emotional and physical trauma he suffered in the Marines, he also wrestles with the physical and psychological abuse he experienced as a child. In spite of the painful memories, Cozmo is determined to create something positive from his life’s battles.
Excerpts from an Interview with Hyacinth:
At first when I heard voices I was like, “Wow, God’s talking to me.” Voices are coming out of the television. My voices were telling me that my parents were trying to hold me back, to get me into trouble, to kill me actually.
So, I just got in my car and just drove into the wild blue yonder.
I first met Hyacinth King seven years ago, when I was working on OC87: The Obsessive-Compulsive, Major Depression, Bipolar, Asperger’s Movie. I was co-directing the film with Scott Johnston and Bud Clayman (Bud is the founder of this website and the subject of the film).
Bud and his mother were supporters of Project HOME, an inspiring and super successful non-profit organization located in Philadelphia. Project HOME empowers people to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness through affordable housing, employment, health care, and education. Since 1989, Project HOME has developed nationally recognized programs that have proven that homelessness can be solved.
HOLLYWOOD BEAUTY SALON is a new documentary film about an intimate beauty parlor inside of the Germantown Recovery Community, a non-profit mental health facility in Northwest Philadelphia run by NHS Human Services.
The Hollywood Beauty Salon is run by Rachel “Hollywood” Carr Timms. Staff and clients alike are in the process of recovery — openly discussing their mental health issues but also refusing to be defined by their diagnoses. By gathering together to get their hair done, share stories, and support one another, they find a way to rebuild their lives.
Rachel is truly the soul of the salon. She is a Recovery Guide and a Certified Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner who uses her own journey with mental health challenges to connect with — and advocate for — her clients.
Rachel has been on her own since high school. She has fought to overcome depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety. Her commitment to recovery began when her daughter, Cadence (now 15 years old), was born. Her story anchors the film, just as she anchors the Hollywood Beauty Salon.
More often than not, mental health workers are anonymous players in any story about mental health recovery. Understandably, words like “strength” and “courage” are reserved for people who struggle daily with mental health issues, striving to improve their lived experience.
This post salutes a team of men and women who work at Montgomery County Emergency Service (MCES), a private, not-for-profit, psychiatric hospital in West Norriton, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.
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I think I was 14 years old. I know I was in high school. My mother, in the depths of what I now know was depression, sat in the couch in our living room crying. This had become a more frequent occurrence in our normally bustling house. Like most 14-year-olds, I thought I had the solution. I tried to tell her that she had nothing to be sad about, that she should cheer up, that the lady down the street had it much worse than her — more kids, less money, more problems. Of course, that was probably the worst thing I could have said to her at the time, and she cried harder. She didn’t know what to do to make herself feel better, and at that point, neither did I.
I hugged her and she cried harder, saying that my hug almost made it worse, because when I hugged her, she didn’t feel anything.
Director of Photography Daniel Traub films Ed Kozempel and Philadelphia Orchestra associate principal flute player David Cramer
When talking about his recovery journey, Ed Kozempel references Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life), a tone poem by classical music composer Richard Strauss. It’s an apt reference. And while Ed wrestles with daily battles in his mind, music has always been a constant source of hope and happiness.
Ed was born and raised in North Philadelphia. With two bachelor degrees from University of the Arts (one in trombone performance and another in music education), young Ed Kozempel was well on his way to a career in music. But at age 26, mental illness interrupted his dreams.
He was lost to paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. At one time he was hospitalized with catatonic seizures. For thirty years he was in and out of hospitals, boarding homes and the street – “limbo” as he says — searching for the right path, the right medication to give him stability and a place to make music.
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Clyde Petersen is one very, very busy guy. He is an indie animator, musician, and activist who lives and works in Seattle. He is currently knee-deep in an autobiographical feature-length animated film titled Torrey Pines, which he describes as “a stop-motion animated adventure film: coming of age with an undiagnosed schizophrenic single mother in San Diego in the 1980s.”
With a mother fueled by hallucinations of political conspiracy and family dysfunction, Clyde is kidnapped at the age of 12 and taken on a cross-country adventure that will forever alter the family as they know it.
Inner Child Dee (Tamika Tukes) and Darlene
“Stigma is an ugly word. It makes me very angry inside. Because people don’t understand. When you say ‘depression,’ they look at you — they try to see it on your face. ‘I don’t see it,’ they say. Well you can’t. So, I want to put a face to it, and it’s not the face that you think it is.” —Darlene Holmes Malone
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Meet Monica. A strong young woman who was not always so. Her journey for self-acceptance includes rejection from church and family. At a very dark time in her young life she was homeless, suicidal and vulnerable. However, an inner drive to survive and live a life that was true pushed her through the depression, and fueled her search for a brighter future.
“I would not want to change my life, even all the negative and bad stuff, because it actually made me who I am. I wouldn’t change anything.” —Rachel “Hollywood” Carr
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“It was the pain of dad’s death that has made me so obsessed with learning about mental health issues. The fact is, globally, someone dies every 40 seconds from suicide. A million people each year. Almost twice the population of Seattle.” — from Delaney Ruston’s narration in Hidden Pictures.
“The films have a message of hope and recovery, and people can so relate to that. People come in, they’re feeling alone and isolated. They leave feeling very differently. That’s powerful.” –Dr. Larry Guttmacher
Screen Shots from the film “One Question” Available on Sproutflix, cinematography by Ezra Waltermaurer, directed & edited by Anthony Di Salvo
We recently posted a list of film festivals that feature works that align with our mission, and I began to think about the people behind the festivals, especially festival directors. I’m curious about their work, their passion and their commitment to this art form.
A few years back, OC87: The Obsessive Compulsive, Major Depression, Bipolar, Asperger’s Movie screened at the Sprout Film Festival. It was a super affair, run by the energetic and enthusiastic Anthony Di Salvo. I called Anthony up recently to talk about his experiences with the Sprout Film Festival, and found out that Sprout is more — much more — than a once-a-year film festival. Here’s the interview.