It's a revelation to be heard in a time of need. In particular, to recognize your mental health struggle is important, but also that it can be treated, sympathized with and perhaps even destigmatized is like unloading a mountain of bricks off your chest. So when I watched the Be Vocal documentary on mental health, a film executive-produced by Demi Lovato, the spokesperson for Be Vocal, I almost cried. It was absolutely amazing to see subjects documented so poignantly and mental health issues discussed so truthfully. It confirmed in my own mind that we as a society must continue to speak up about the need for mental health treatment and pursuit of mental wellness, if not for ourselves, for others who are going through these issues.
Lovato's struggles with mental wellness have been publicly documented for the better part of six years. Since 2011, Lovato's journey through rehab, mental health advocacy and recovery has been documented by both the press and Lovato herself. Now, Lovato is seizing on the chance to spread the word through the documentary Beyond Silence, "an initiative focused on helping individuals and communities with mental illness advocate for themselves and for others."
Lovato opened up to Variety, saying that "she hopes that the documentary not only educates, but also inspires people to raise awareness and spark conversation about mental health. [...] 'I hope that this film will show people that there is nothing wrong with having a mental health condition. If you do have one, you are able to live well and thrive with a mental health condition, if you are able to speak up and be vocal about the things you are going through.'"
Watching Beyond Silence, as a person living with anxiety and working through it every day without the assistance of medication (full disclosure: Personal circumstances mean I'm not able to access medication at this point in time) was tough at first, but it got better. The documentary is only 30 minutes long, but it's an eye-opening and necessary watch. I have only recently gotten comfortable even speaking openly to those closest to me about the anxiety that lives in my head. It's not easy to open up, to admit that you need to talk or need help. Beyond Silence, the way I perceived its intention, was to nudge open that door and allow those who need help to see it's OK to say it out loud.
One of the documentary's subjects, Jeff Fink, points out that "my brain traveled with me wherever I went." That feeling of being chained to your mental health issues, that the problem cannot simply be cut off or exorcised immediately because it literally lives within a crucial part of your being, was so real to me while watching his story unfold. What Fink's story, in addition to the stories of Lauren Burke and Lloyd Hale, expresses is that there is a way to regain some control over the illness that is attempting to derail you in life and that there is no such thing as a dead end in treating mental illness.
It hasn't always been an easy journey while living with anxiety. The panic attacks, the retreat from personal relationships, the cold sweats, the nerves, the racing thoughts about what could go wrong and even the imagined pressure you place on yourself all becomes so overwhelming that it's so easy (at least for me it is) to shut down. Yes, I am still able to show up for the things that are important. I'm still able to do my job and, hopefully, do it to the best of my abilities. But what this documentary confirms is what I already know to be true: It's entirely possible to give off the appearance of normalcy while going through absolute hell mentally.
What Be Vocal and Lovato, as a united and public face for ending the stigma around discussing and treating mental health, are doing with Beyond Silence is incredible. As the nation grapples with major and consistent political and social changes, the discussion around self-care and good mental health practices has entered our public conversation. The need to take care of oneself or be an ally for someone who is seeking care is essential, regardless of who you are or the circumstances you live with. I watched Beyond Silence and saw the opportunity for beginning a real and meaningful dialogue around mental health and wellness. I encourage you to take half an hour and watch Beyond Silence here. It's an amazing and timely documentary that is capable of achieving excellent results.
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