Although one in four people will have been affected by a mental health disorder by the time they are 40, only a small number will actively seek out treatment for it or confide in friends and family, choosing instead to face the darkness on their own.
Filmmaker and social activist Ron Furman has directed a documentary called Living in Darkness, which chronicles the 39-year-old’s journey to find a cure for his 30-year bout with anxiety and depression, seeking the guidance of experts, of which many are interviewed throughout the film.
Furman recently hosted a free mental health day fundraising event, which featured mental health practitioners and specialists versed in less traditional therapies, such as yoga, guided meditation, sound therapy and reiki.
“I realized for the first in my life that I might be needing some help,” Furman explained during his opening remarks. “At that point, I said I’ll pay anything just to not feel this way, because life isn’t worth living if I’m hurt and I can’t eat and I can’t shower, I can’t do the normal things. The hardest thing to do was getting out of bed … and it’s usually the worst place to be when you’re feeling that way.”
Living in Darkness is Furman’s attempt to “shine a light on mental illness,” in order to cut through the darkness that its victims dwell in. Although the Israeli-born documentarian admits to being a seemingly unlikely person to tackle this subject, as he has had no prior involvement in the mental health field, it was his personal journey towards self-discovery, as well as his desire to help others, that gave the project a sense of urgency. And Furman’s near 15-year career making documentaries gave him the necessary tools to chronicle his road to recovery.
“I realized I have a voice and I’m able to tell a story,” he said. “And if I put myself in the middle of a camera … I would be able to help a lot more people.”
One of the two trailers released for Living in Darkness – both of which were screened at the event – show him receiving an assortment of traditional and non-traditional forms of therapy.
Along with anxiety and depression, the film touches upon anger management, something the director has struggled with, as well. “The truth is, I hold myself back almost every day,” he notes in the trailer. “If I could scream every time I get upset, I’d probably scream a thousand times a day.”
One of the speakers, Hailey Patry, a life coach who was the victim of a violent assault that led to her experiencing posttraumatic stress disorder, said her motto is, “Don’t just bounce back; bounce better.”
Her beliefs echo the message in Furman’s documentary: that no matter how many obstacles are in one’s path, there are ways to overcome them. But, more importantly, no one has to do it alone, as there are people willing to listen and help. Furman believes each and every one of us can be those people.
“Every one of us can make a difference,” he said. “It can be something small, like say hello, ask how you’re doing and just try to be there for them. It’s better if we’re nice to people, but we’ll always have days when people make us upset … so it’s important to be yourself, but also be there for others, because you really have no idea that you can save a life. And, if you can do that when someone’s reaching out, that one hello, that one little smile, can really make all the difference.”
Furman has many projects revolving around social activism and education. One of them is The Prickly Pair Show, a Facebook Live talk show that he co-hosts with his longtime friend, Ellie Miron. Furman describes the show as a combination of “prickly and sweet” in the way it tackles controversial topics in a frank, straightforward manner, while situating the conversation in a casual, non-judgmental atmosphere, where guests and viewers are encouraged to think with open minds.
The Prickly Pair Show played an integral role in the event, with Miron hosting a live stream, in which Facebook viewers could watch the proceedings as they unfolded and leave comments.
Living in Darkness is scheduled for release on Oct. 10, which is Mental Health Day. More information can be found at livingindarknessmovie.com