Screening and forum seek to 'shed light' on young people struggling with mental illness

Screening and forum seek to ‘shed light’ on young people struggling with mental illness

GREAT BARRINGTON — Talking openly about young people’s mental health is half the battle, say organizers of a weekend community event.

On Sunday afternoon, the Berkshire International Film Festival, in conjunction with the Austen Riggs Center, will convene a candid discussion about mental illness and suicide prevention, “Shine the Light,” aided by the screening of a documentary and a locally produced public service announcement.

In the documentary “Hiding in Plain Sight, Youth Mental Illness”, 20 young people tell their personal stories of finding ways to live with challenges. The event will take place at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington.

Organizers say they hope to provide important, practical information and offer ideas of who to turn to for help – and inspiration.

Dr. Jane Tillman, an Austen Riggs mental health expert who will appear at Sunday’s event, says the documentary allows people to put this issue in clear and personal terms.

“I think the power of this documentary is that people with various forms of mental illness have their own voice and their own story to tell. It really shows,” said Tillman, who hopes the screening will help members of the audience. open their hearts. “When someone is hurting, there’s something about being able to tell our story and what it means to us. It’s important in helping others understand what’s going on and developing our own self-understanding.”

The director and producer of the film, Erik Ewers, will be present, as well as two subjects of the documentary. They will share their thoughts on how the film was made and the subject matter it addresses.

Such educational events, according to Dr. Tillman, can make a difference.

“We are in a crisis in this country, around mental health in general and mental health and youth in particular. The more we can educate the public about this, I think the better off we will be as a community. “, she said.

After the documentary, organizers will show the three-minute public service announcement “Up On the Roof,” which features songwriter Carole King.

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Kate Morris, who is married to Eagle co-owner Hans Morris, came up with the idea to produce the video at the start of the pandemic. Morris assembled a team and set out to find young people across the country who were struggling with mental health issues and who could be energized by participating in the project.

One of the youngest participants, 9-year-old Tracy Ryan, told The Eagle last summer why the video was important.

“If you can put messages in front of people like this PSA showing, ‘Hey, you know what? There are people who care about you, and here’s access to even more people who can guide you on this otherwise very difficult path, “I just think it’s so important,” Ryan said.

Dr. Tillman believes that successful treatment of mental health issues benefits from taking a community-based approach.

“Mental health is often seen as an individual issue, but it’s also a community issue,” she said. “And the more we can come together as a community to understand the sources of suffering in our local community, and the more community resources we can provide to address the types of suffering that persist, the better off we will be as a community.”

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Also present for the screenings and discussion on Sunday will be Amanda Sherman, who produced the PSA; Ali Borowski, founder of the nonprofit Find Your Anchor; and Brenda Butler, MD, of Berkshire Health Systems.

The event will take place on Sunday at 3 p.m. It is presented in cooperation with sponsor Kate Morris and the Berkshire Coalition for Suicide Prevention.

Tickets are $15 for adults and a fee for 18 and under. They can be purchased online at or at

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