Many years ago, before I started making documentaries for a living, I knew there was one story I had to tell, a story I had no choice but to tell. It was happening in my own life, to my own mother. Her life seemed too strange and disturbing to be true.
‘Out of the Shadow’ was born out of my anger about the stigma and vast code of silence surrounding people with schizophrenia and their families. When I learned about how pervasive this illness is, I realized that it’s not just my mother’s story, it’s millions of people’s story. People with severe mental disorders are all around us, and I am deeply troubled by our society’s profound misunderstanding of what schizophrenia is, and of the people who are afflicted with it.
In my family no one talked about my mother’s “odd” behavior, but we all wondered why she couldn’t “pull her life together.” After decades of repeated apartment evictions and involuntary hospitalizations kept my mother on a constant cycle of unfamiliar living arrangements, psychiatric wards, doctors, social workers and medications, we finally realized that she actually was so ill that she wasn’t able to help herself.
As a filmmaker, I knew that the intimacy I had with my mother would offer unprecedented insight into the life of someone who suffers from schizophrenia, as well as their families who also have to cope with the pain and confusion of the illness. I hoped that by showing my family’s insights, I could illuminate realities and clarify misconceptions. In filming my mother, I also wanted to expose the travesties of our public health system inability to offer continuum of care, so fractured is it that decades of her life were simply lost by missed opportunities. In some small way, I hope this film will educate people who have had to care for a loved one who suffers from schizophrenia. I also hope that it will help educate those people who are not directly affected by the illness, but simply desire to better understand it.
In addition, it’s my sincere wish that this film will offer families a renewed sense of hope. It took decades for my family to learn how to take care of our mother, and help her realize some degree of potential. I have learned that some recovery IS possible if the proper supports such as housing, job training and placement and medication management are in place. Cooperation between mental health professionals and family caregivers has given our family a sense of empowerment and hope that we never before experienced. It’s also allowed Millie to realize goals she never before thought were possible.
I would like to thank SARDAA and Linda Stalters for including Out of the Shadow in their film festival. I am sorry I could not be with you at the screening but please feel free to email your comments to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and check out our website www.outoftheshadow.com, for more information and educational materials.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.