“One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.” – Mother Teresa
The award-winning Voices features the stark and intimate portraits of three very different individuals and their struggle with severe mental illness in America. The stories of Sharon, Thomas and Aaron illuminate the challenges, realities, and often complex emotions and choices that surround people with psychotic mental illness and those who love them.
In turning the camera on these individuals and their families, the subtle power of Voices lies in the brutal honesty of families sharing their stories for the first time, unburdening themselves from the stigma of mental illness. As they search for answers they know they may never find, they expose the human back-story of the psychotic experience in a way never before captured on camera.
The film takes a fresh approach, as families steer the narrative over rocky and deeply personal terrain. Without expert commentators deployed to “make sense” of what often does not, Voices allows people to tell their own stories, unmediated by statistics or authorities that imply answers. With this nuanced style, the film provocatively highlights the disjointed and decompensated behaviors that can result from serious mental illness, and its impact on society and the loved ones in its orbit.
In these raw and sometimes jarring real life stories, outcomes are as varied as the people in them: Sharon is well cared for but institutionalized in a long-term care facility; Thomas lives on the street but is a beloved member of his community; and Aaron’s father is left wondering what could have prevented his son from committing the violent tragedy that eventually made national headlines.
Since releasing on PBS this past month, Voices has received encouraging messages and interest from people and organizations from around the world.It’s hoped that the enthusiasm and energy behind the film will translate into active engagement of communities and much needed discussion around issues that are important to people and families living with psychotic conditions and severe mental illness.