Film fights mental health stigmas

    Local teen appears in new documentary about managing mental illness.

    An actor best known for his role as an unstable, coke-snorting mobster is in Philadelphia to talk about the community perceptions that keep people from getting treatment for mental health and substance-abuse problems. (Photo: Joe Pantoliano aboard the USS John F. Kennedy during Fleet Week, 2005/Wikipedia)

    Listen:

    [audio:090603testigma.mp3]

    Joe Pantoliano lives with depression, and says he founded a non-profit to fight the stigmas that come with the illness.

    Pantoliano:
    It’s the only disease that you can be diagnosed with and get yelled at for having. You know my mother: ‘What’s the matter with you? What’re you talking about? There’s nothing wrong with you. It’s all in your head.’ The neighbors stop visiting, there’s a fear that they are going to catch it.

    The actor who starred on The Sopranos is in town to screen his film “No Kidding, Me Too!” It documents the ways he and others manage their mental illnesses. The film features local teen Jordan Burnham. He attempted suicide in 2008 and is now an outspoken mental health advocate.

    The 19-year-old says the information young people get about mental illness usually centers on people in severe crisis. He wants more everyday discussions about managing mental health.

    Burnham: What led up to that suicide attempt, what led up that depression? You know the highs and lows of bi-polar but you’re not diagnosed. Feeling depressed but you’re not sure that you’re depressed. I want to make sure that it’s OK to talk about your everyday feelings, to make it OK to say that you are sad.

    Pantoliano is screening the film for mental health groups in cities around the country. In Philadelphia Friends Hospital is hosting the film discussions this week.

    Pantoliano: It’s the lives of these seven individuals, what it’s like today to regulate and manage and how we, you know, try to maintain our sanity one day at a time. This is what it’s like on our side of the street. And if it’s something that you might like, you can come over and give it a try.

    Pantoliano says talking openly about his disease helped him shake off the isolation that so often comes with mental illness.

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