Actor Joe Pantoliano was part of the panel discussion tonight (along with Film Professor Jacob Bricca, Psychology Professor Matthew Kurtz, and Wes alum director Ben Selkow of recently screened film A Summer in the Cage) of the Film Series movie, Canvas. The panel members discussed the importance of having more balanced portrayals of mental disorders in pop culture and the media (like Canvas, which sympathetically and realistically depicted schizophrenia’s effects on a family), and especially raising awareness on college campuses.
Pantoliano related how his own struggle with clinical depression made him realize how much societal attitudes towards mental illness need to change. To that end, he started a nonprofit organization, No Kidding, Me Too!, which aims to destigmatize mental illness in American society with a humorous approach. It’s worth checking out:
No Kidding, Me Too! is a nonprofit organization comprised of entertainment industry members united in an effort to educate Americans about the epidemic related to mental illness in all forms. Through this enlightenment we will teach those suffering from it, and their loved ones who are victims of it, to talk about it openly. The goal is to tear this stigma out of the closet and de-isolate it so that these people will be surprised to find millions of others like themselves and say, “No Kidding, Me Too!”
Our goal is to educate the public about the wonderful possibilities that exist when we break down the societal barriers which hold us all back because we treat those afflicted with mental illness differently — we label them and isolate them. What we passionately want to accomplish is to relieve the weight of millions of people who suffer this isolation.
In our roles as communicators, we have found that by infusing humor into a message — by having a “spoonful of sugar help the medicine go down” — that the message not only grows faster but is retained longer. That is our hope. To use the humor in the name No Kidding, Me Too! to lighten the message, to cause people to remember the name, so when they are ready for the message, they will get it. To pay some recognition to the statistic that one in five adults in this country suffers from a mental illness. To allow people to have a conversation that includes, “…and I’m bipolar.” “No Kidding, Me Too!”
Pantoliano’s stated goal tonight was to eventually “make mental illness as sexy as erectile dysfunction”, in light of Viagra’s ubiquity in society today as opposed to that condition’s chuckle-inducing status ten years ago. A noble cause… and hopefully one that’s at least as successful.