State Lawmakers Preview Award-Winning Documentary of Artist's Struggle With Schizophrenia at NCSL Annual Health Policy Forum

Schizophrenia Update, January 2004

12/10/03 6:02:00 PM

WASHINGTON, Dec. 10 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Artist John Cadigan today shared his story of his struggle with schizophrenia with more than 400 members of the National Council of State Legislatures, comprised of state legislators and staff from across the country at their annual Fall Forum to discuss health policy. In an effort to challenge existing negative stereotypes about those who struggle with severe mental illnesses, Cadigan filmed his life for over 10 years.

Cadigan's story came to life at the NCSL's annual Fall Forum through a preview of excerpts from the artist's documentary, People Say I'm Crazy. The documentary has been sweeping film festivals throughout North America, winning major awards such as the Humanitarian Award at the Vancouver International Film Festival and the Best Documentary award at the Chicago International Film Festival. The documentary has recently been purchased by HBO/Cinemax for airing in summer 2004.

In addition to the preview, Cadigan's unique art depicting his vision was also displayed at the NCSL meeting. A relief printmaker, Cadigan has exhibited his woodcuts in galleries and museums nationwide.

"Society turns away from those who suffer from mental illnesses such as schizophrenia," Cadigan said. "Fifty-five million Americans suffer from some form of mental illness. It is important that we foster understanding within society that these are brain disorders and these disorders can be successfully treated, so there is hope for people to return to productive lives."

As states confront the worst budget shortfalls since World War II, investment in mental health services is in great jeopardy. According to the National Mental Health Association (NMHA), nearly two-thirds of states cut funding for mental health services in 2002.

"States can choose to invest in effective, community-based services or pay a greater price through increased emergency room visits, homelessness and an overburdened criminal justice system," said Senator Peter Knudson, assistant majority whip for the Utah State Senate and emcee of the event. "John Cadigan's story shows us how important it is to provide timely and appropriate treatment for those who suffer from mental health disorders."

"The search for appropriate treatment was extremely difficult for my family and me," Cadigan said. "My story is not unique, but sharing it puts a face on the thousands of other sufferers out there who need timely and effective care. We must encourage decision makers to dramatically improve the quality and availability of mental health services which saves society an enormous amount of taxpayer resources in the long term."

Cadigan, now 33, was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1991 while he was a senior at Carnegie Mellon University. From the beginning of his illness, he decided to document his experiences on film. His sister, Katie Cadigan, a professional documentary film producer and director who has taught film at Stanford University, used her knowledge to teach John how to film himself so that he could explore what was happening to him.

The film follows Cadigan and his family as he battles schizophrenia, and captures his setbacks and milestones on his journey to build a stable life. Cadigan's blunt honesty helps audiences to understand the overwhelming challenges facing those with severe mental illnesses.

The film was made possible in part through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and through an unrestricted educational grant from AstraZeneca as part of its commitment to foster greater understanding and compassion about mental illness.

People Say I'm Crazy was co-produced by Academy Award winning producer Ira Wohl. The film is scheduled for theatrical release in New York in April 2004. It is currently in educational distribution.

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