art by: Jerome Lawrence shadow voices: finding hope in mental illness
About the Documentary

What: Shadow Voices: Finding Hope in Mental Illness is an hour-long documentary dealing with stigma, recovery and hope regarding mental illness. The program offers an inside look at what it is like to live with a mental illness and how individuals and their families find their way through a morass of  medical, governmental, societal and spiritual issues. Ten persons from across the U.S. and many sectors of the population with mental illness tell their stories, plus experts and advocates in the field add perspectives and insights.

Interviewees Include: former First Lady Rosalynn Carter and former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher, along with Dr. William Anthony of Boston University , Dr. Joyce Burland, director of educational programs for NAMI, and Thomas Bornemann, director of the mental health center at the Carter Center, and many individuals telling their personal stories.

 The program probes: 

  • History of mental health care

  • Stigma/insurance parity 
  • Rehab/recovery 
  • Criminal justice system 
  • Role of church/faith 
  • Finding hope

Problems addressed : 

  • 1 in 5 will suffer a major depressive episode over the course of a lifetime, usually before the age of 40.
  • More than 2.3 million people in the U.S. have bipolar disorder; 10 million have a depressive disorder.
  • 5.4 percent of all Americans have a serious, on-going mental illness. Other reports state that 23 percent of Americans aged 18 and older have a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year, while 9-13 percent of children ages 9-17 have a "serious emotional disturbance with substantial functional impairment."
  • By some estimates, 35 percent of people will suffer from a diagnosed brain disorder during their lifetime (not counting all who suffer temporary depression, but including the elderly years). Factoring in all those who care about and give care to the mentally ill, this is a huge social issue that is difficult to handle because of the social stigma our society places on mental illnesses.
  • The economic cost of untreated mental illness is more than 100 billion dollars each year in the United States; costs include unnecessary disability, unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness, inappropriate incarceration, suicide and wasted lives.
  • 90-95 percent of suicides are associated with mental illnesses

Between 70 and 90 percent of individuals have significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life with a combination of medicines, counseling, and support systems. Mental illnesses are biologically-based brain disorders. They cannot be overcome through "will power" and are not related to a person’s "character" or intelligence. Mental disorders fall along a continuum of severity. Mental disorders are the leading cause of disability (lost years of productive life) in North America, Europe and, increasingly, in the world. (From National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website and Mood Disorders website

Audience: Teens and adults, male and female.

Release: Initally released on ABC-TV December 4, 2005 - February 4, 2006 at the discretion of local stations.

Length: One hour, with ancillary material available on DVD.

Production:  The program was produced for the “Vision and Values” series for ABC-TV by Mennonite Media in partnership with the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission and the Communications Commission of National Council of Churches.