Contributing to the mental health dialogue through film
By: Kaelen Pelaia, Staff Writer
This past September, a short film contest put on by “Art with Impact” focused on mental health and its associated stigmas and dilemmas. The winner of the contest, an animated short titled Hanging, by Pennsylvania-based filmmaker and instructor Nick LeDonne, perfectly encapsulates the theme of the contest in a profound and meaningful way.
The film is a fully hand-drawn piece which both describes and manifests a young man’s struggle with self-worth and suicidal thoughts. The character is assaulted from all sides by swirling shadows rife with his inner demons. As the assault grows in intensity, the young man grows more and more desperate to end this torment, and as a result, looks to end his life. However, the manifestation of all of his loved ones’ concerns and cares for him comes into being in the form of a woman, which attempts to shield him from the onslaught of torturous abuse. Eventually, the call of his loved ones breaks through his wall of evil thoughts and the young man sees a way forward through his depression.
The film has been critically acclaimed as a step forward in the ongoing struggle against the stigmas around mental health. It brings awareness to the importance for those suffering from depression or anxiety to reach out to those close to them and to get the help they need and deserve.
The film also calls into question the lack of an institutional solution for those suffering from mental illness and how those who suffer often have to rely only on the people close to them in order to get the support they need. Our current support structure for those experiencing mental illness often rests heavily with families and friends.
This film is a crucial participant in the mental health and illness discussion. It allows the viewer to empathize with the main character by demonstrating his frantic and heart-wrenching mental suffering and the relief and support his loved ones’ apparition gives him. However, the film leaves no uncertainty that this is a temporary solution; indeed, the young man is left just as vulnerable as he was before, even after the intervening thoughts of his mother’s love. The film drives home the need for a more pervasive and enduring solution to mental illness and the anguish it is able to inflict.
This story mirrors creator Nick LeDonne’s own struggle with depression in November 2014. Through sharing his own experience, LeDonne’s work challenges stigmas around mental illness. His aim for the film is to help empathize with and provide support for other people going through experiences that are similar to his own.
The film has been featured at several US college campuses and in associated mental health dialogues as well as being a feature in the OLIVE film collection for its outstanding production and subject matter. It has been screened internationally in 28 countries and has become heavily involved with international suicide prevention organizations as part of their attempts to open up meaningful dialogue on the subject.
The film can be viewed online at the Art With Impact website for free, along with several other films and art projects regarding mental health and wellness. It is a great way to help inform yourself and others about the ways mental illness can affect the people closest to you.
If you’d like to watch the film for yourself, click the link: here.