December 01, 2015

“Troy event explores alternative views of mental health”

Date published: 11/20/2015
Publication: Albany Times Union

Filmmakers provide perspective of people with direct experience

By Claire Hughes

Troy–Sera Davidow credits her unwillingness to comply with mental health professionals’ orders with “saving her life.”

The advocate, activist and filmmaker had six diagnoses of mental illness by her early 20s, but no one asked her why she took the self-destructive actions she did — why she cut or burned herself, for instance. No one asked about the trauma in her life.

“I want to own my own story,” said Davidow, now 39. “Every time someone calls me mentally ill, it seems like it erases these things that happened to me.”

Davidow, director of the Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community, is among filmmakers whose work will be screened Thursday evening at the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy as part of an event dubbed Voices from the Emotional Underground. The evening, devoted to alternative perspectives from people who have gone through the mental health system, is organized by Tracy Frisch, an Argyle-based writer who has explored unconventional views of mental health in her work.

Films to be screened include Davidow’s new documentary “The Virtues of Non-Compliance,” produced with Evan Goodchild, which contests the idea that people with diagnoses of serious psychiatric illness have limited potential and must adjust their hopes and dreams. An excerpt from a documentary project she led last year, “Beyond the Medical Model,” will also be shown.

Her films explore ways of looking at mental health that are not limited by ideas about altered brain chemistry and the need to prescribe drugs.

“This is not an anti-medical model film,” Davidow said of “Beyond the Medical Model.” “It’s an anti-model film. It’s really about not getting stuck in any one particular approach.”

Voices from the Emotional Underground is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, with the screening of “Crooked Beauty,” which chronicles the journey of artist/activist Jacks McNamara from psychiatric inpatient to mental health activist. The film will be followed by a potluck at 6 p.m. and Davidow’s films at 7 p.m.

A panel discussion featuring Davidow and Sascha Altman DuBrule, co-founder of the Icarus Project, will follow.

Admission to Thursday’s event is by donation, with $10 suggested and $5 for students and people with low incomes.

Voices from the Emotional Underground

What: Film screenings, discussion, potluck

Where: Sanctuary for Independent Media, 3361 Sixth Ave., Troy

When: 5:30 p.m. Thursday

Admission: Suggested donation of $10; $5 for students and people with low incomes.

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