National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Film is a Resource For Faith Communities

Shadow Voices: Finding Hope in Mental Illness

The National Council of Churches, through Mennonite Media, has produced a one-hour documentary that is a helpful tool for stimulating discussion about mental illness, both inside congregations and as part of broader civic education programs.

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter and former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher are featured in Shadow Voices: Finding Hope in Mental Illness, but the most powerful voices are those of persons who live each day with mental illness, including some NAMI and FaithNet leaders.

Debbie Miller of Cincinnati, who lives with depression and assists in her church’s music ministry, observes: “Some people feel like they’re not worthy of helping because they don’t have a psychology degree, or they’re not a therapist… I think people in congregations sell themselves short of how much of an impact they are able to have.”

Originally broadcast in early 2006 on ABC-TV stations around the country as part of the “Vision and Values” documentary series produced by the National Council of Churches, Shadow Voices is available for purchase in VHS ($19.95) or DVD ($24.95) format, plus shipping and handling. Call 1-800/999-3534.

The film’s Web site also offers a wealth of information for ministers, program directors, and newsletter editors.

Discussion guides  divide the documentary into topics and suggests several questions for each. One is suitable for a relatively short 90-minute program.  Another provides an outline for six study sessions, with questions for discussion, scripture references, and other information.

Other sections include Sermon Starters, Worship Resources, and Scriptures of Comfort.

The documentary is billed as “an intimate, inside look at what it is like to live with a mental illness and how individuals and their families find their way through a tangle of mental, medical, governmental, societal, and spiritual issues.” Its interviews examine people’s experiences with stigma, recovery and rehabilitation, insurance discrimination, and how faith communities can do a better job responding to those with mental illness.

As the film also shows, spiritual faith and support can play a role in recovery.

“Mental illness is not a struggle between good and evil inside us. It’s a brain disorder. It’s a chemical imbalance,” says Bob Carolla of Virginia in the DVD bonus features. “It’s why medication is often the key to really lifting us out of a toxic cloud. But in order to keep going, I can’t see how anyone can take on that challenge without faith and a flowing of love and trust.”

“Recovery happens and we need to support recovery,” agrees Lyn Leger of Massachusetts who as a teenager in the 1970s was admitted to the “hellhole” of a state hospital. “We need to support helping people to have enough hope in themselves and enough faith in themselves to go forward.”

Visit the NAMI FaithNet Web site for more information on faith and mental illness