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Fighting Stigma

Joey Pants is Making a Documentary—About Hope

Joe PantolianoActor Joe Pantoliano (“Joey Pants”) has formed his own non-profit organization, “No Kidding, Me Too!” and is making an “infotainment” documentary called Hope’s Messengers” as part of the fight against stigma.

No completion date has been set yet, but the film is intended to be an educational, provocative, inspiring, hopeful, and sometimes even humorous look at mental illness and recovery.

A five minute “teaser” from early filming includes NAMI peer facilitator Phil Winchell from Louisville, Kentucky, interviews with others affected by different conditions, and scenes of   brain dissection research at the Harvard Brain Bank.

It also includes a horse in a stable who watches a group discussion among doctors and consumers, shakes his head and snorts.   That’s the kind of zany twist you have to expect from Joey Pants.

“There are more brains in this room than in the Oval Office,” he says at one point in the film.

Pantoliano received NAMI’s Outstanding Media Award for his role in the movie, Canvas,” which was released last year, about a family confronting schizophrenia. He credits making the movie to opening his eyes to mental illness and his seeking help—for what was diagnosed as clinical depression. The revelation came not long after a close friend died from suicide.

Many actors have made movies about mental illness and then moved on. But Pantoliano is staying the course.

He is recruiting other Hollywood celebrities to speak out against stigma regardless of whether or not they have a mental illness themselves. He has lobbied Congress. He is speaking out in the news media—and recently screened the teaser at both the Democratic and Republican conventions.

The name “No Kidding, Me Too” is based on the exchange that Pantoliano explains often occurs whenever one person discloses their history of mental illness to another person.

Disclosure is a moment of vulnerability that often is followed by reassuring affirmation. After all, one in every four Americans experiences mental illness at some point in their lives. No matter what a person’s diagnosis or place on a path to recovery, we are all part of “Hope’s Messengers.”