1 January 2013
Voices is an award-winning documentary that features the stark and intimate portraits of three very different individuals and their struggle with severe mental illness in America. The stories of Sharon, Thomas and Aaron illuminate the challenges, realities, and often complex emotions and choices that surround people with psychotic mental illness and those who love them. In turning the camera on these individuals and their families, the subtle power of Voices lies in the brutal honesty of families sharing their stories for the first time, unburdening themselves from the stigma of mental illness. As they search for answers they know they may never find, they expose the human back-story of the psychotic experience in a way never before captured on camera. The film takes a fresh approach, as families steer the narrative over rocky and deeply personal terrain. Without expert commentators deployed to "make sense" of what often does not, Voices allows people to tell their own stories, unmediated by statistics or authorities that imply answers. With this nuanced style, the film provocatively highlights the disjointed and decompensated behaviors that can result from serious mental illness, and its impact on society and the loved ones in its orbit. In these raw and sometimes jarring real life stories, outcomes are as varied as the people in them: Sharon is well cared for but institutionalized in a long-term care facility; Thomas lives on the street but is a beloved member of his community; and Aaron's father is left wondering what could have prevented his son from committing the violent tragedy that eventually made national headlines. In each case, the questions of how to find the right treatment and the balance between autonomy and involuntary treatment provide a powerful subtext. Voices makes it clear that even when people with severe mental illness are surrounded by loving family, the choices can be tough, and public policies too often fall short of meeting the needs of either the individual or society.
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