KETCHUM, Idaho - As part of St. Luke’s ongoing efforts to expand outpatient mental health services in the WoodRiverValley, St. Luke's is proud to be sponsoring the documentary film Running from Crazy as part of the Sun Valley Film Festival. The film festival starts today. To find out more, visit sunvalleyfilmfestival.org.
The documentary chronicles the life of actress Mariel Hemingway, the granddaughter of the great novelist Ernest Hemingway. The film focuses on Mariel’s family history of mental illness and the suicides of seven relatives, including her grandfather and her sister, Margaux.
The film is directed by Barbara Kopple, two-time Academy Award-winning filmmaker (for the 1976 documentary Harlan County, USA, and the 1990 documentary American Dream), the film places an emphasis on suicide awareness and the importance of mental health evaluations. St.Luke’s had the opportunity to interview Barbara before the event.
Kopple recently sat down to talk about the film in an interview with St. Luke's.
Q: Why did you feel it was important to make a film about mental illness?
A: I feel that mental illness and depression is something unfortunately that touches all of us. I feel that all of us have experienced this with loved ones or friends or people we know. Everyone knows someone who goes through this or has struggled with this. Treating and caring for people who are suffering in this way is so important and it needs to be addressed in a really compassionate, open way for the greater good of everyone. Education is really important and having an open dialogue and I am hoping this film along with St. Luke’s and other people who care about it will spark a discussion and understanding so it doesn’t have to have a stigma and can be talked about.
Q: Have you had any personal experience with mental issues and did that influence your decision to make the film or the way you directed it?
A: Well, I did this film because it was also a film about the Hemingway family and they have had such an incredible mark on society. I really love story telling and I love meeting new people and seeing what’s happening to them as a filmmaker. So it’s very much about the story and meeting Mariel and being able to spend time with her and see what a positive human being she is and how she is just trying to go around another corner and really care about her daughters and care about other people and the activism she does. How could you not want to do a film on it. As far as personally, my son’s half-brother committed suicide when he was 15 and we were all so close. Nobody goes untouched.
Q: What drew you to the Hemingway family’s story?
A: The OWN network contacted me and asked me if I would like to do this film and I said absolutely. After I met Mariel, there was no way I wasn’t going to do it. The film is still very young. I finished right before the Sundance film festival in January, so this will only be the second screening in Sun Valley. I still talk to her so much and she is just amazing and I love her.
Q: What does the title Running from Crazy mean?
A: Mariel said that when she was receiving an award in November of 2011. McLean Hospital celebrated it's 200th anniversary during a gala event. Mariel Hemingway was presented the McLean Award—the hospital's highest honor—for her commitment to serving as a champion of mental health issues, including suicide awareness and prevention. She was part of a focus group of people who had lost family or friends through suicide. She started off by saying, I’ve been running from crazy all my life, and that title just stuck.
Q: The state of Idaho is severely lacking mental health services—Idaho currently ranks 50th in the nation when it comes to access to psychiatric providers. Do you think that easily accessible services would have been helpful to the Hemingway family in overcoming feelings of depression and suicide?
A: I think that anytime there is a lack of treatment for mental illness, that it might be preventable. It’s shocking to think what could happen if everyone who needs access was able to get proper mental health support. A lot of other problems stem from mental illness, for example homelessness, violence, suicide, incarceration, etc. 1 in 4 people are affected by mental illness and if treatment is not available to that amount of people what are we going to do as a society? It’s a really big problem that we need to address, and if it’s not accessible it’s useless.
Q: In a world where certain taboos and stigmas still exist, what did you learn about discussing and disclosing mental illnesses in creating the film?
A: I learned that is so important to discuss it, that we are opening up a whole world and getting rid of the silence. If we do that, we will find that we are not alone and that there are people to help us and stand up for us. You look at what happened in Newtown, Connecticut and if people had known about this boy and what he was going through it may have been preventable. It’s not just the restriction on guns, it’s also the role that mental illness had to play. That was so incredibly shocking. I also think we need to find more ways to talk about love, caring, and non-violence. All of these things ideas should be part of conversation as well.
Q: Is there anything else we didn’t cover or anything that you’d like to say to people about mental illness?
A: Well, I’m not an expert on mental illness, I’m a filmmaker. My hope is that the film will spark conversation and that’s going to start stirring people and we have organizations like St. Luke’s that are being proactive and doing something about it. That’s what it is going to take to change.
To find out more about Barbara Kopple, visit www.cabincreekfilms.com
Ken Dey served as Public Relations Coordinator at St. Luke's from 2008-2014.