True story of a family’s mental health journey comes to Wilton Library
Approximately 43.8 million adults in the United States experience mental illness in a given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and roughly 20% of youth, ages 13-18, experience a severe mental disorder at some point in their lives.
No Letting Go, a 2015 film based on New York resident Randi Silverman’s family journey to understand and cope with their middle son’s mental health disorder, will be shown at Wilton Library on Thursday, Sept. 29, at 10 a.m.
Silverman co-produced and co-wrote the award-winning film, directed by Jonathan D. Bucari, to show the devastating impacts of mental health disorders and help fight the stigma that prevents some from getting help.
After her son, Tim, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Silverman and her family spent about seven years trying to understand and cope with the erratic behavior and emotional instability that came with the disorder.
“At a very young age, he showed signs of what I now know is generalized anxiety disorder,” said Silverman.
“That anxiety became so intense that he had a difficult time just going to school. He quit all his activities, started staying away from friends and isolated himself.”
As things became more and more difficult, Tim fell into a “bad depression,” said Silverman, and at a very young age, said he no longer wanted to be alive.
“After years of misdiagnosis and going to different doctors, he was ultimately diagnosed with bipolar disorder,” said Silverman. “There was so much stigma around it, it took a long time.”
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness or manic depression, is a serious brain illness that causes unusual mood changes, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) .
Symptoms of the disorder are more powerful than “the normal ups and downs every kid goes through,” according to the NIMH.
Youth with bipolar disorder experience more extreme mood swings that are accompanied by changes in sleep, energy level and ability to think clearly, which can make it hard for a child to do well in school or get along with friends and family members.
Those with the disorder experience manic episodes in which they feel very happy and are more energetic and active than usual, and depressive episodes in which they feel very sad and are much less active than usual.
According to the NIMH, bipolar disorder is a dangerous illness that leads some young people to try and hurt themselves or attempt suicide.
No Letting Go
In No Letting Go, Silverman said, she tried to show the various reactions of a family and community, the stigma and understanding of mental illness, and how it affects relationships between parents and siblings.
“I wanted to use the power of film to tell the story in a way that would help people understand mental illness a little better and what families go through,” she said.
“I wanted to make a film that shows it can happen to anybody and it’s nobody’s fault. Sometimes it’s because of a particular event, but sometimes it’s not.”
Although TIm was around eight years old when he was diagnosed, Silverman said, he is portrayed as a teenager in the film, played by her youngest son.
Today, Tim is 20 years old and “doing very well,” she said.
“He has learned — through many, many years of therapy and treatments and exercises in self-awareness — how to manage his bipolar disorder,” said Silverman. “We were lucky we were able to get him help. Many families aren’t so lucky.”
Silverman said the stigma of mental illness makes parents afraid to reach out for help, and she believes No Letting Go is “incredibly representative” of what millions of families go through.
“I say that because I’ve gotten so much positive response from families like mine saying, ‘You’ve told my story and thank you for putting that out in the world,’” said Silverman.
No Letting Go’s world premiere took place in October at the 2015 NYC Mental Health Film Festival, and has since been shown at a number of festivals and won more than 10 awards.
On March 30, the film premiered on video-on-demand, Amazon and iTunes, said Silverman, and was announced among the top 100 films on Amazon over the summer.
“Now,” Silverman said, “we’re taking the film to communities like Wilton to do community conversations.”
“I made the film because I believe telling stories is the best way to create a greater understanding of what mental illness is and help reduce and alleviate stigma so more people can get help,” she said.
Silverman recently established the Youth Mental Health Project — a nonprofit that brings No Letting Go into communities to spur conversations and create collaborations to change how people think about mental illness.
After the screening — sponsored by Wilton Youth Services, Wilton Library, Wilton Youth Council’s Parent Connection and Laurel House — Silverman will lead a Q&A session.
To learn more about No Letting Go, visit nolettinggomovie.com.