Friday, June 25, 2021

Life & Style

Social Action Movie, Healing Voices, Offered on Shoreline as Part of World Premiere Event

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Healing Voices offers viewers a look at alternatives therapies for dealing with extreme mental states. Photo courtesy of Healing Voices

Healing Voices offers viewers a look at alternatives therapies for dealing with extreme mental states. (Photo courtesy of Healing Voices)

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Healing Voices will have its theatrical premiere on Saturday, April 16 at the 2016 Boston International Film Festival and a global “One Night, One Voice” release on Friday April 29, in New Haven and more than 125 communities around the world.

Photo courtesy of Healing Voices

Healing Voices will have its theatrical premiere on Saturday, April 16 at the 2016 Boston International Film Festival and a global “One Night, One Voice” release on Friday April 29, in New Haven and more than 125 communities around the world. (Photo courtesy of Healing Voices)

The website for the movie Healing Voices says it’s not just a movie, but a call for social action.

“It does not have all of the answers. But it can be a catalyst. A worm-hole of sorts, to open up our thinking. An opportunity to help us re-frame what we have now learned about what society calls ‘mental illness.’ And that is this: People can and do recover from even the most severe mental health challenges. Their lives aren’t broken. And that there are alternative treatments that have proven to be effective, enabling people to live full, meaningful lives.”

The movie will be rolled out in more than 125 communities on Friday, April 29 in what the organizers are calling a “town hall style” world premiere hosted by partners, groups, and interested organizations. Along the shoreline, Judy Murray, a nurse and mental health activist who lives in East Haven, is helping to organize a screening and town hall style event on Friday, April 29 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Yale Davies Auditorium, 15 Prospect Street, New Haven. The evening will include a light dinner, the movie, and a panel/audience dialogue.

Murray, who is head of the Dignity and Advocacy Network (DAN)—which is focused on promoting mental health and addictions through advocacy, education, research, and service—is working on the movie event with Larry Davidson, a professor of psychiatry at Yale, and the director of the Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health.

“This movie is the first I know of to introduce an American audience to an important reality that some other parts of the world have become very familiar with over the last 40 years: that many people hear voices and find ways to live constructively with these voices without medications or other mental health services,” says Davidson, who also is a senior policy advisor for the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. “What psychiatrists describe as ‘auditory hallucinations’ do not always have to be understood as symptoms of a mental illness, but can be a part of a normal life.”

Murray concurs, and says the movie is a global documentary about three people who have “escaped from the traditional mental health system.” The three people—named Oryx, Jen, and Dan—are followed for about five years and the film explores the work they do to “overcome extreme mental states and integrate these experiences into their lives in a meaningful way,” the movie website says. “By way of the harrowing and inspiring stories of individuals learning to negotiate and grow through their madness, Healing Voices challenges us to rethink our cultural understanding of ‘mental illness’ by bringing a message of recovery, and charting the course for effective alternative treatments that enable people to live productive and meaningful lives.”

Murray says the movie will allow viewers to understand alternative treatment methods, as the documentary follows the lives of the people being featured in the movie. She says the issues raised in the movie are particularly poignant for her, since her son, Dan “Zippy” Kelson took his own life in 2014 following his struggles with traditional treatment methods that included high doses of medicine and recommendations from mental health professionals to “fight” the voices.

Kelson was “an intelligent, happy, loving, respectful soul who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in his early teens” following cycles of depression, Murray said in a prepared statement. “As he reached his late teens and early twenties, Dan began to be obsessed with the world’s dysfunctional systems, how people were being failed as far as healthcare and more, the rich getting richer as the poor got poorer. He talked about how the world should spin on love when in fact the world spins on power and money.

“He tragically ended his life by setting himself on fire while driving down the street trying to make a statement in the only way he knew how. This happened just two weeks after being released from a nine-day stay in the psychiatric unit [after which] his condition was worse than when he was admitted.”

Murray says she created the group DAN to fight for change, the kind of change being advocated for in this movie.

“We must come together and realize that when the medical model is not working, there are other alternatives that do work and can save the lives of people in mental pain. We must ensure that beautiful, sensitive souls like Dan remain here to help us change the world,” she says. “We must start hearing their message.”

For more information about the Dignity and Advocacy Network, visit dignityandadvocacynetwork.org. For more information about the roll out of Healing Voices, visit healingvoicesmovie.com. There is no fee for Healing Voices movie event on Friday, April 29 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Yale Davies Auditorium, 15 Prospect Street, New Haven, and all are welcome.


Pem McNerney is the Living Editor for Zip06. Email Pem at p.mcnerney@shorepublishing.com.

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