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“No Kidding, Me Too”: The Long Reach of Mental Illness

 One in five Americans has a mental illness. A whopping 4 in 5 are affected by it. Though there were a number of statistics in No Kidding, Me Too! — a new documentary by Sopranos alum Joe Pantoliano, set to come out on DVD on April 27 from New Video through Amazon.com’s Createspace –this one stuck out. It is illustrated by the interviews that make up the film, which shows teens and adults living with a wide array of disorders. Significantly, the interviews split their focus between the diagnosed individuals and their families – parents, spouses and children. One of the important points the movie tries to make is that mental illness (though Pantoliano would prefer to call it dis-ease) has far-reaching effects. As the title suggests, if you’re one of the millions of Americans coping with a mental disorder, you’re far from alone.

But the real aim – and the real value – of the film is not just in pointing out the prevalence of mental illness. It’s true that huge number of Americans are dealing with depression – or bipolar disorder, or substance abuse, or schizophrenia, or any of a long list of diagnosable conditions. But that fact in itself isn’t enough. Pantoliano is on a mission to do more than tell you that he’s been there, too. His film, and the organization attached to it, aims to crush the stigma associated with mental illness.

By Guest Blogger
Created Mar 29 2010 – 9:26am

 One in five Americans has a mental illness. A whopping 4 in 5 are affected by it. Though there were a number of statistics in No Kidding, Me Too! — a new documentary by Sopranos alum Joe Pantoliano, set to come out on DVD on April 27 from New Video through Amazon.com’s Createspace –this one stuck out. It is illustrated by the interviews that make up the film, which shows teens and adults living with a wide array of disorders. Significantly, the interviews split their focus between the diagnosed individuals and their families – parents, spouses and children. One of the important points the movie tries to make is that mental illness (though Pantoliano would prefer to call it dis-ease) has far-reaching effects. As the title suggests, if you’re one of the millions of Americans coping with a mental disorder, you’re far from alone.

But the real aim – and the real value – of the film is not just in pointing out the prevalence of mental illness. It’s true that huge number of Americans are dealing with depression – or bipolar disorder, or substance abuse, or schizophrenia, or any of a long list of diagnosable conditions. But that fact in itself isn’t enough. Pantoliano is on a mission to do more than tell you that he’s been there, too. His film, and the organization attached to it, aims to crush the stigma associated with mental illness.

Given how many Americans are dealing with it, it’s surprising how little mental illness is understood – and more upsetting, how frequently it is viewed as a character flaw, instead of an illness at all. One of the film’s primary subjects, a teenager with depression and a history of sexual abuse and cutting, recounts how a doctor stitched up her arm without anesthesia when he discovered that the wound was self-inflicted. Even for those who don’t face such overt hostility, people with mental disorders are often expected to “Snap out of it!” or told to simply stop behaviors caused by their diseases.

If Pantoliano has his way, this approach will be stamped out in favor of a more open and understanding view of mental disease. At the close of the film, there are brief updates on how several of the subjects have coped with their disorders since filming concluded. While several are doing very well – including one teen whose suicide attempt turned his life around and allowed him to seek help and speak in high schools about the impact of depression – some are clearly still struggling, both with relapses and with the stigmas attached to their conditions. Perhaps the most important thing the film has to convey is included in the general update at the end: Keep the dialogue open. It’s the only way we can change.

–Avigail Gordon

Guest blogger Avigail Gordon is a PT intern.

Links:
[1] http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-numbers-count-mental-disorders-in-america/index.shtml#Intro
[2] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1391105/
[3] http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001592/
[4] http://www.psychologytoday.com/files/teaser/2010/03/213view.jpg

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