"JANUARY 2014. I remember shaking while dialing into a conference call with Kevin Lyman and Kate Truscott to discuss what it would take to have Hope for the Day join the tour. HFTD had no money to say yes but I hung up after saying “YES” completely clueless as to how we would pay for everything 🤷🏻♂️ that day changed my life and helped HFTD build one of the platforms we utilize to start the conversation about mental health. 5 years, 250,000+ resources distributed, 1200+ speeches. unreal. thank you to Kevin and the 4FINI staff, all the bands, brands and friends that worked with us.
forever against the odds, forever warped." - Jonny Boucher, Instagram.
The Hope Defined Project:
Using Film To Change The Narrative On Mental Health BY Sydni Budelier
The film and media industry is a powerful global force. Its influence has contributed to our society’s political and social views, and has helped shape cultural ideals, including what it means to be “beautiful,” “happy,” “normal,” “popular,” and “socially acceptable.” With continuous exposure to these ideals, we have been encouraged to apply them to our own lives, where we feel pressure to meet the impossible, fictitious standards depicted on screen. And the social conditioning doesn’t stop there. For years the film and media industry has been notorious for misrepresenting diverse groups of people, among them, individuals with mental health challenges. When we continuously see mental health challenges represented through stereotypes that are violent, dangerous, out of control, and helpless, we start to believe these portrayals mirror reality. But too often these are false representations that perpetuate mental health stigma and deter people from seeking mental health care.
The Hope Defined Project was created by Hope For The Day to provide outreach and education on mental health through film and digital media. Just as the pervasiveness of film has the potential to negatively impact our culture, it also has the ability to incite social change and deepen empathy for previously misunderstood and misrepresented demographics. Staying true to our proactive approach, we aim to use film as a tool to change the narrative on mental health; to flip the script and give accurate representation to those affected by mental health challenges.
Our first film, “I’m Fine” debuted at the Naperville Independent Film Festival in 2016. In it’s 30 minute run time, it documents how the silence of stigma prevents two teenagers from seeking proper support after their best friend and sibling completes suicide. The script was reviewed and endorsed by Mental Health America Illinois and Illinois Department of Public Health, and was composed based on survivors’ attempts and loss experiences. Since its premiere, the film has become an important facet in Hope For The Day’s educational programming and we actively use it to supplement discussions on stigma, communication, mental health care, and suicide.
This year, we are working with MediaChron Productions and writer and director, David Azer to release the feature film, “To My Family.” The film offers a real life portrayal of a teenage boy’s mental health challenges as he records video diaries, trying to explain his internal experiences to his family and make sense of undiagnosed bipolar disorder and social anxiety. Like many people affected by mental health, the silence of stigma prevents Tyler from speaking directly to his family about what he’s going through, and because he has not had access to appropriate resources, he continues to grapple with his mental health.
Azer’s intention to break the stigma and open a conversation on mental health is clear throughout the film. “People with these disorders are people like you and me,” he says. “The truth is, I am a lot like Tyler, where I have a lot of trouble expressing my emotions and the way I feel to people, so I wanted to make a film that encapsulated that. I wanted to use this film as a message to my own family.”
The film is also intentionally set in an unknown location. The choice to use an ambiguous setting emphasises that mental health affects everyone no matter where you’re from. Mental health has no prejudice. It impacts all races, cultures, sexualities, genders, ages, and social classes. It doesn’t matter where or who you are; a mental health challenge can be triggered by internal or external experiences and anyone can face a mental health challenge or crisis during their lifetime.
In the case of Tyler, he is part of one of the age groups (age 10-24) most impacted by mental health. But rather than relying on the outdated, overused stereotypes of the mentally ill to portray Tyler, Azer showcases the complexities of mental health, shedding light on Tyler’s human need to be understood.
“There are all these movies out there that are constantly dramatizing and glorifying everything, especially mental disorders. The problem is that people start to associate that— they start to say ‘oh well every time I’ve seen mental disorders and mental disabilities on TV it’s these crazy characters,’ so people will start to think that means you’re crazy . . . I wanted to do [a film] and strip away all of the drama, strip away all of that Hollywood glitz and glam, and just show you a real person and let you connect to someone genuinely.”
“To My Family” is poised for a strong 2018 film festival run. With the help of compassionate directors like Azer, The Hope Defined Project continues to use film as a means to incite empathy and broaden perspectives on mental health. Our hope is that this film resonates with a wide range of people and allows them to see that we’re all in this together. Having a mental health challenge does not mean it’s the end of your life or that you’re crazy. There are resources available so you can live a better quality of life. Together we can break the silence and raise the visibility of resources so individuals going through mental health challenges like Tyler can feel confident enough to speak out and get the help they need. We will reduce suicide rates when we eliminate the highest risk factors, which include the silence of stigma and the lack of visible resources.
For more information on The Hope Defined Project visit our website.
A New School Year is Calling:
How to Help Relieve the Pressure of a New Semester By Amanda Rozmer
As August kicks off, the return to school looms over our heads. Few things seem more daunting than the start of a new school year, and it’s not the supply lists or the search for the perfect book bag that weighs so heavy on us. It’s what we’re going to wear and how it will be perceived, where we’re going to sit at lunch, wondering who will have the best summer stories and if ours will stack up. We tend to equate our appearances and experiences to our value, and that creates an internalized pressure to be “cool” and to prove that to our peers. Returning to school, to seeing our friends and, maybe our foes, on a daily basis amplifies this stress, and suddenly our focuses slip out of our control. Through all the tests, the grades, the friends, the pressures both internal and external- it’s important to remember that we are in this together.
So often we believe that our struggles are beyond the help of anyone, and that no one wants to hear them. Hope for the Day is aiming to dispel that thought, and remind us that we are seen, and our struggles are ones that can and should be talked about because someone is always listening. With all the daily pressures that shake up our emotions, we start to feel like a soda bottle being shaken; ready to explode. That explosion can take the form of a lot of changes in behavior, mannerisms, and patterns. It could appear in a change in our interactions with people we may have found comfort with, it could mean withdrawing, failing tests, up to an attempt at suicide. When we’re under such strong pressure, sometimes from external stressors outside of our control, it’s important to remember what to do with a soda bottle that’s under pressure- you let the pressure out slowly, bit by bit. We can do this by utilizing our “valves”.
Healthy valves in our lives are anything that we can utilize to bring us relief. Sports and physical activity, creating art, listening to or playing music, video games, cooking, baking; any expression of ourselves that can bring us some comfort and sense of self. These are healthy ways of letting off some of the pressures in our lives by expressing what’s important to us and maybe even sharing it with friends or family, like enjoying a concert together, or going for a run with a friend. Valves allow us to take in our lives in small, easier to handle pieces that make it more manageable to work through the big picture of what could be causing our mental health challenges.
There are some valves that may seem like an immediate comfort to turn to that are more harmful in the long run; the “unhealthy valves”. These are things such as self-harm and substance use, valves that have long term effects and can leave us feeling deeper in crisis than when we started them. It’s important to remember that the outside pressures we’re feeling, we aren’t feeling alone: we are in this together. These valves will do more to shake up our bottles in the end, and won’t relieve the pressure for us long term.
The greatest, healthiest valve we have is talking. By entrusting someone close to us with an insight into how we’re feeling, what’s on our minds, we open the valve little by little to release the pressure of the feeling that we’re in this struggle alone. Sometimes being in the midst of a mental health crisis can feel like being a soda bottle that’s shaken up, fallen on the floor, and rolled away ready to burst open. However, that bottle can still be carefully opened, little by little, if we utilize our valves. Letting someone we can trust, like a friend, family member, counselor, or teacher know that we’re feeling an internal struggle and that we’re facing a mental health challenge is a crucial step in letting off some of the pressure in that bottle.
With back to school right around the corner, we need to keep in mind that we are in this together; the grades, the friends, the classes, anything that contribute to our mental health challenges we are not alone in experiences. Talking to our friends, keeping that dialogue open, and being supportive when someone is feeling less than their best are all key parts to making this new school year a great one. Study hard, stay active, and remember that it’s okay not to be okay.
IT'S OK NOT TO BE OK
If you or someone you know needs help, reach out;
Crisis Text Line
TEXT “ITSOK” TO 741741 (Available 24/7)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-8255(TALK) - Press 1 for Veterans Line
The Trevor Project LGBT Lifeline
866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386) (Available 24/7)