Joe Pantoliano will screen film at mental health fair

Mental illness continues to be more prominent than ever in the news, and on April 23, Wilton High School’s Little Theater will host a mental health fair, beginning at 6 p.m.

The centerpiece of the event will be a screening of the film No Kidding, Me Too! Directed by actor and Wilton resident Joe Pantoliano, the documentary interviews a brain surgeon, psychologist, high school athlete, teenage girl, and Mr. Pantoliano, known as “Joey Pants.”

The film combats both the negative stereotypes associated with mental illness and the discomfort in discussing it. In addition, it examines the hope that comes with a diagnosis and treatment for mental illness.

“We started planning in early December because we felt there was a need to de-stigmatize issues related to mental health,” said Margaret Creeth, program director at Wilton Youth Services. “Our goal is to present an evening that will convey a message of hope and debunk many of the myths surrounding mental illness.

“An important component of the event is to offer those who attend a wide variety of resources that contribute to mental well-being, as well as those resources that specifically address mental illness.”

The evening is open to the public, and admission is free, but it is recommended for high school students and adults, given the nature of some of the content.

As part of the event, approximately 20 organizations will participate in the mental health fair. The film will begin at 6:30, followed by a question-and-answer session hosted by Gillian Neff of News 12 Connecticut.

The panelists will include Mr. Pantoliano, along with David Bernstein Ph.D., a clinical forensic psychologist; Eric D. Collins MD, physician in chief at Silver Hill Hospital; Janet Isdaner LSCW, director of social work at Silver Hill Hospital; Janet Sylvester MD, a psychiatrist at Norwalk Hospital; and Judy Higby, a 25-year Wilton resident and community volunteer, as well as a parent.

The mental health organizations will reopen following the panel discussion, with the evening ending at 9.

“The mental health fair will be an exceptional opportunity to better understand the complexities of mental health disorders and possibilities for recovery,” Ms. Creeth said.

Mr. Pantoliano, known for his long career that has included credits such as The Sopranos, The Goonies, and The Fugitive, announced he suffered from clinical depression in 2007. He started No Kidding, Me Too! as a nonprofit organization before stepping behind the lens to film the documentary of the same name.

“It was so stigmatized that I coined the term ‘dis-ease’ because everyone is so uncomfortable discussing it,” Mr. Pantoliano said.

“These stories need to be told, and that’s the whole point of No Kidding, Me Too!” he added. “We believe that the more we talk about this, the more normal it becomes, and the stigma is then evaporating, so you don’t have to whisper about it.”

Ms. Creeth said the Wilton High School culinary arts department will provide finger foods for attendees.

For more information about the mental health fair or the film screening, call Wilton Youth Services at 203-834-6241.