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Episode 2 – Art and Mental Health: Can They Co-Exist, or Must They Compete?

In this episode, Bud and Laura have a lively, wide-ranging discussion with Philadelphia artists, Abby Squire and Rosie Carlson about how art and mental health affect one another. Abby and Rosie discuss their process in making art and how this intersects with their mental health.

EPISODE 2 – Art & Mental Health: Can They Co-Exist, or Must They Compete?

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Rosie is a graduate of the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. Her passions include graphic design, painting, and a love of studying women’s historical roles within fermented beverages in early modern Europe. She says, “It’s only recently that I’ve admitted to myself that I need art; that I need to be making it. Valuing my art has allowed me to tackle anxiety and depression like never before because I’ve come to value myself.” Rosie’s website is rosemarycarlsondesign.com.

Abby has been living in the city for the past three years and is continually inspired by all of the creative people who call Philadelphia home. As a teaching artist with The Claymobile, a mobile arts initiative serving low-income students, she has had the opportunity to work within diverse communities throughout the region and share artmaking with students who don’t have access to art programs in the public schools. When not at work, she devotes her time to her own creative pursuits; reading her favorite authors, and exploring every corner of the city on her bicycle. Abby currently resides in her West Philadelphia home with her Golden/Pit Bull, Eloise.

Laura and Bud pose challenging questions to their guests, such as, what is more important, mental health or art, and are the two mutually exclusive? The guests and hosts explore these and other questions while investigating how to incorporate self-care into making art. Struggle is an inherent component of any creative endeavor, just as struggle with issues like anxiety and depression is part-and-parcel of living with mental illness. The hosts and guests offer candid and revealing insights into the intense, rewarding, and challenging life lead by artists, as well as individuals coping with mental health challenges.

 

RELATED: Mental Health > Art an essay by Laura Farrell

 

An Hour of Mental Health Short Films on PBS station WHYY

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!

Episode 1: Trauma, EMDR Therapy, and Asperger’s Syndrome

In this first ever podcast episode of OC87 Recovery Diaries on the Radio, join Laura Farrell and Bud Clayman as they interview each other about their own mental health journeys.

EPISODE 1 – Podcast Hosts, Laura Farrell and Bud Clayman discuss trauma, EMDR therapy, and Asperger’s syndrome on first episode of OC87 Recovery Diaries on the Radio

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A LETTER FROM BUD AND LAURA:

We invite you to listen in as we discuss our own bouts with trauma and how we have used EMDR (Eye Movement, Desensitization, and Reprocessing Therapy) to cope.

We also read from our own first person essays, which appear on the OC87 Recovery Diaries website. Laura speaks candidly and thoughtfully about her battle with PTSD and sexual assault, while Bud reveals his journey of learning to trust again after a bitter emotional trauma that occurred in his own life.

Recording this episode was a significant emotional experience and catharsis for both of us.

Laura says:

Recording the first episode of the podcast and sharing my personal mental health journey was both an exciting and nerve-racking experience. The message and mission of the podcast is so important, but disclosing personal information about my mental health and experiences with trauma is something that produces anxiety within me. This is elevated by the fact that the podcast is a personal project—something we want to feel proud of sharing.

 

I think it is crucial to have conversations about these things and I feel fortunate to have a platform to do so, nonetheless it is an experience that can create fear—will what I say be clear and relatable? I cannot let my fear prohibit me from doing this work. I am fortunate to have a co-host & co-producer who helps create a safe space to begin these discussions. I am excited to continue working and starting a dialogue around mental health that I feel is urgent to have.

Bud feels similarly about the project:

Doing this podcast brings me back to my routes in radio. When I was seventeen, I recorded the 3:00pm Sunday news for a Jewish magazine format radio show. I started out wanting to be an announcer before I got into filmmaking and writing. When Laura came to me and said that she wanted to do a podcast, I was leaning towards other projects at the time. But her enthusiasm and drive won me over and I was completely on board to help co-host and co-produce a show dealing with mental illness.

 

I particularly like this first episode because Laura and I have both been through traumatic experiences and, as a result, have to deal with similar issues of trust and interdependency. I think we both understand how the world can come crashing down on you and how devastating it can be to have to pick yourself up again and go on with life. What I most admire about Laura is her kindness. And she remains kind despite going through a horrendous event in her life. In EMDR therapy, her trauma would be considered high level, whereas mine would be a smaller level trauma. Paradoxically, I think she is more open and accessible than me, even though what she went through was more severe. I guess we all experience things differently and I hope Laura continues to remain positive.

We hope you will relate to our discussions and our guests in the weeks and months ahead.

Thanks for tuning in to OC87 Recovery Diaries on the Radio.

Sincerely,
Laura Farrell
Bud Clayman

 

Disclosure

Disclosure related to trauma is difficult to navigate. Sharing secret information can be courageous, but it can also make the person disclosing information feel vulnerable. The truth is, as we share our experiences — especially dark ones – with others, they perceive us differently.

I always try to be seen as happy and kind to others, although certain experiences have made me feel and act differently. The word “victim” carries a heavy weight and meaning — something I consistently struggle with as I consider who I am.  (more…)