As I read this the other day, while going over interview transcripts for the documentary, I was really struck, as if I’d heard it for the first time since being on the journey of making “Stranger At Home.”
That couldn’t be true. Hell, I interviewed the person who said it — a number of them. I’d even transcribed the interviews.
So, why did this feel so new? Why did it get my attention in that way that only a raw and simply stated fact can grab you?
The only thing I can come up with is this: We’re all — certainly my film team and I — more used to saying, hearing, reading that 22 per day are taking their lives. We’ve even used it as a compelling graphic in the trailer for our documentary in-progress — “On average, 22 veterans per day are taking their own lives.”
We’ve set this statistic on a black background for more gravity, with some pretty weighty music under it. Effective and people do gasp when that moment rolls onto the screen. In other words, if they don’t already know what’s going on, we get their attention. They shift into a palpable awareness, just as my team and I had, that our veteran population is in dire straits with a profound mental health crisis, which needs all hands on deck today to fix, not tomorrow.
After all, one of our intentions with making “Stranger At Home” is to open hearts and minds, to not only elevate a conversation about de-stigmatizing mental health care and treatment in this country overall, but to never, ever, EVER stop having this dialogue when it comes to the care of our veterans and their families.
Here’s a sad and yet hopeful fact — In 1944, President Roosevelt put into place a national reentry program for returning veterans with an emphasis on mental health care and treatment. They had the data, the research, a thorough plan of treatment for what was truly recognized as the consistent and legitimate mental health consequences of combat trauma. The program was shelved shortly after WW2 and nothing, in terms of legislation for another program of this nature, has been re-instated since.
The crucial point of this is — a still relevant blueprint for this program exists and the question is what are we waiting for? — A mental health crisis?
Well, we have one.
I get it now — “every 65 minutes” was wording that woke me up again. I’m grateful because I never want to become complacent — as a filmmaker, as a human being.
On Memorial Day and every day, may we remember all who have lost their lives, both on the battlefield and at home, in the name of our freedoms.
Be safe, be peace, be compassion,
Beth Dolan/Producer for “Stranger At Home”
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