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ABC-TV Mental Illness Documentary Features Carter Center Experts

New York – An intimate, inside look at living with a mental illness, the newest National Council of Churches USA-sponsored television documentary, will begin airing on ABC affiliates across the country on Dec. 4. Shadow Voices: Finding Hope in Mental Illness examines how individuals and their families find their way through a tangle of mental, medical, governmental, societal and spiritual issues.

The documentary includes four Atlanta-area residents: Rosalynn Carter, longtime advocate on mental illness issues; Dr. David Satcher, former surgeon general, member of the Carter Center's Mental Health Task Force, and currently director of the National Center for Primary Care at the Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta, Ga.; Jerome Lawrence a watercolor artist who also works for the George Mental Health Consumer Network in Atlanta and was a featured speaker during the 2004-2005 Conversations at The Carter Center; and Dr. Thomas Bornemann, director of the mental health program at The Carter Center in Atlanta.

The program will air Dec. 4 – Feb. 4 at the discretion of local ABC stations. The air dates, times, and stations info will be continuously updated through the 60-day broadcast period at, so check local listings.

Lawrence still struggles with schizophrenia, but through medication and hard work functions independently. He creates watercolor paintings praised by Rosalynn Carter among many others, and has also taught art classes for a program called The Work of Our Hands at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter in Atlanta.

Lawrence says that even though he is in recovery, medicine helps, but it doesn't take away the illness or the stigma. Lawrence's artwork was also selected for extensive use on the website for the documentary, at

Other key expert interviews include:

  • Dr. Joyce Burland, director of educational programs for NAMI, developed and directs the Family to Family program for family caregivers of those with mental illness.
  • Ramiro (Ray) Guevara headed the "In Our Own Voice" program of NAMI helping consumers of mental health services tell their stories for years.
  • Dr. Risdon Slate, a professor of criminology at Florida Southern College, Lakeland, Fla., is on the board of Directors of NAMI and has testified before congress regarding legislation that helped to fund mental health courts.

The documentary includes: a brief historical look at the involvement of conscientious objectors in mental hospitals during World War II; the stigma and isolation still experienced today; the use of prisons as de facto mental institutions; health insurance issues; today's focus on recovery and rehabilitation; and responses of faith communities.

In any given year, about five to seven percent of adults have a serious mental illness. Approximately 35 percent of all persons will experience a diagnosed brain disorder sometime during their life, with mental illnesses causing the most disability among all illnesses in the U.S., Canada and Western Europe according to the 2003 US President's Commission on Mental Health Report.

When persons with mental illness in institutions were released to community programs through the deinstitutionalization process of the 1960s, a hodgepodge of community systems attempted to meet needs with results varying greatly according to the locale. Spokesmen in the documentary say that today more people with mental illness are in the Los Angeles County and Riker's Island (New York City) jails than any state hospital in the United States. Approximately 300,000-400,000 people in prisons have mental illness, with double that number on parole or probation. Most are not considered dangerous to others and some are first picked up for typical homeless charges of vagrancy or loitering.

Burton Buller, producer for the program and director of Mennonite Media says, "We want to challenge society to rethink the stigma that continues to follow diseases of the brain. We want the viewer to come away from the documentary saying, 'I will never be able to look at or think about mental illness in the same way again.'"

The program was produced for the "Vision and Values" series for ABC-TV by Mennonite Media in partnership with the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission and the Communications Commission of National Council of Churches. Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for ecumenical cooperation among Christians in the United States. The NCC's member faith groups - representing a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, historic African American and Living Peace churches - include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.

The program will be available on VHS and DVD for purchase after Dec. 15.

Jerome Lawrence website

Former First Lady Rosalynn 
Carter, a strong advocate for 
mental health, prepares for 
her interview.

Jerome Lawrence (right) is an Atlanta 
artist who lives with schizophrenia. 

Dr. Thomas Bornemann (right), director 
of the Carter Center's Mental Health 
Program, chats with Burton Buller, 
executive producer.

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