The Caring Network Film Series

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Southwest Regional Mental Health Board, Inc.
City & State:
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

The Mission of the Southwest Regional Mental Health Board, Inc. is to ensure a quality system of comprehensive, recovery-oriented mental health and addiction services that enhance the quality of life and well being of all residents of Southwestern Connecticut.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

The Southwest Regional Mental Health Board is a small non-profit with a big mission – to ensure all residents living in Southwestern Connecticut have access to quality mental health and addiction services. We offer grassroots support, advocacy and outreach, and are dedicated to educating the community regarding mental illness and substance abuse concerns. The Caring Network Film Series, a multi-media public education program, was established by the Southwest Regional Mental Health Board to increase community awareness and to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. The goal of our comprehensive community education program is to educate the general public about mental illnesses, the effective treatments and services available, and to address the ongoing stigma around mental illness. With a limited annual budget and small staff of one full-time Executive Director and 2 part-time staff, our capacity to implement our community education program and bring the hopeful message of recovery from mental illness is limited. Thus, in spring of 2008, we embarked upon a new initiative: to develop a series of videos on mental illness that could be shared with the general public using the power of new media, i.e. DVDs, the web, podcasts, T.V. broadcast. Our goal was to transform prevailing public attitudes towards mental health by providing instant access to real stories that can have a positive impact on the public’s perception of and understanding of mental illness. In July 2008, the Southwest Regional Mental Health Board was lucky to be awarded a small grant from the Connecticut Mental Health Transformation Initiative to develop the 4-part film series. What we did not include in our budget was funding for the publicity and marketing of the film series. We only had enough in the grant budget to pay for professional production of the series. As such, we needed to rely upon our small staff to develop the PR materials. With no training in marketing or computer graphics, as we are all trained in human services, we turned to the products offered by Microsoft Office Professional to self-publish the needed marketing materials. Through the collaborative efforts of our small staff of three and the use of Microsoft Publisher we developed a series of marketing products. These include DVD jackets for each of the four shows, DVD inserts, a brochure for the Caring Network Film Series and the invitation to our Premier Event held in February 2009. Attached are samples of all these products. To get the word out to the general public, we printed all these products using our office copier/printer and distributed the materials widely throughout Southwestern Connecticut and statewide. We also used the power of email to get our message out and converted all our documents to PDF files, which could easily be opened using Adobe Acrobat software by all. To view additional mental health materials created using Microsoft Office products, and the shows themselves, access our website at “The Caring Network Film Series” is a compilation of inspirational stories of people in recovery from mental illness. Twelve people are featured in the films, which shares stories of men and depression, women in recovery from serious mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, young adults facing mental health challenges through the college years, and families of children with serious emotional and behavioral health concerns. The stories are inspiring and encouraging, offering hope to those who struggle with depression or other unexpected mental illnesses, and their families members. These shows bring real stories to the public about how individuals navigate their journey of mental illness: the challenges, the turning points, and the joy in learning that recovery is possible. The power of our shows can be illustrated in the story of Tony, a young 30 year old male. Tony was depressed for many of his teenage years, and it wasn't until much later in life -- after a drug addiction with heroin and several days of being unable to get out of bed -- that he sought help for his mental illness. Now, no longer afraid to talk about his feelings, Tony speaks in our film series about men and depression. In the film, Tony explains the struggles of being depressed and how he was able to deal with his illness and, eventually, overcome it. "I want other men to know they don't have to be ashamed of their depression," he said. "There is a way to deal with it, overcome it and live with it."These shows have enlightened and educated teachers, parents, faith leaders, health professionals, community leaders and primary care physicians by giving them a first- hand, candid perspective of how people struggle with mental illness and how they can overcome their challenges. It is our hope that persons viewing these films will come to understand that mental illness is a treatable health issue just like diabetes or heart disease and that people will be encouraged to seek treatment for themselves or a loved one and begin their journey towards recovery. As one of the women in our films related, “Just because somebody has a mental illness, they don’t stop being a person.” Microsoft Office products have been integral to the success of getting our message out to the general public. The ease of use of these software products enabled our staff to produce quality promotional materials at a very low cost. Brochures and the DVDs themselves have been widely distributed to faith groups, school and community and our message is surely getting out. We also have used our brochure to gain the attention of the media and have been the subject of several feature articles in our local newspapers as well as a feature news story on Channel 12’s weekly health show, “12 on Health.”

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