The festival explored the importance of meeting people where they are and providing them with the services they need, as well as raising awareness of the ways in which organizations and society can both succeed and fail to support people. Over 400 people we serve, staff, family members, advocates, self-advocates, community supporters, and professionals attended to view the seven powerful films and three panel discussions.
The morning began with Fighter and Off the Rails. These two films were followed by a panel discussion led by Vinfen Director of Integrated Care and Innovation Elizabeth Cella who brought together licensed clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst Michael Stuart Garfinkle, PhD, Program Manager Lauren Sneider of the Boston Medical Center Criminal Justice Diversion Programs, Lieutenant Frederick Cabral of Cambridge Police Department Family & Social Justice Section, and Vinfen Peer Support Specialist Elizabeth Rouillard. Michael started the panel discussion talking about his thoughts on Darius’ diagnosis. Liz voiced her inspiring story of overcoming addiction and navigating the criminal justice system. Fred then spoke about the importance of keeping our children out of the juvenile system and community-based diversion. Lauren also described how vital diversion is to our community. She concluded, “If you can help intervene at the point of pre-booking, figuring things out early and getting people off the traditional criminal justice path to something more supportive, that is the gold standard.”
After lunch, guests were treated to the films Bonnie Brown and Myra Brown and Asperger’s Are Us followed by a lively panel discussion led by Vinfen Director of Service Development Kathleen Catano, MS, who spoke with the stars of Asperger’s Are Us Noah Britton, Ethan Finlan, Jack Hanke, and New Michael Ingemi. The comedy troupe immediately began with jokes, which left the audience in stitches. “So thanks for coming, and goodnight,” Noah begun. Ethan then added, “Hope you enjoyed the Q&A.” The comedy troupe members then discussed the impact of the film, the influence of receiving their diagnosis on their lives, and how it is problematic that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5) no longer includes Asperger syndrome.
Guests then viewed the films Looking for Luke, I Jumped Off the Golden Gate Bridge, and Beyond Silence. Following the films, a panel discussion moderated by Vinfen Director of Recovery Services Adam Whitney, LSW, CPRP, CPS included stars of the film Beyond Silence CEO of Notehouse Lauren Burke, Esq.; Founder of Go Fetch Wellness Jeff Fink; and Certified Peer Support Specialist at SC Share Lloyd J. Hale, II along with special guest Juliana H. Chen, MD, Executive Producer of Looking for Luke, Child Psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, and Harvard Medical School Instructor. Adam began the panel with a moment of silence to respect the emotional intensity of the films “It is an honor to be here,” Juilana declared. “I find myself very emotional, so I just wanted to put that out there, and I think it’s the combination of seeing the films and also sitting here with the three of you (stars of Beyond Silence) is an honor beyond words.” She also spoke to the prominent barriers to access to mental health services. Stars from Beyond Silence described the effect of being in the film, conquering feelings of hopelessness, labels with mental health, their own recovery journeys, and the importance of finding one’s passion. “I realized the power in being able to not live in this shadow, not live with such stigma and such shame and fear of how I would be judged. I realized it was so liberating to be able to share that story. I could share this with the world and it has been incredible,” Jeff proclaimed.
A special thank you to all our panel members and to this year’s event sponsors Shaevel, Krems, O’Connor & Jackowitz, LLP, Ozzy Properties, MSG Staffing, Jackson Lewis, and Parker, Brown, Macaulay, & Sheerin, and to our Film Festival Committee and volunteers who made this year’s festival such a great success.