Honestly, I'm not someone who watches many documentaries. Though I admire the use of television and movies to educate, I typically look to those media as ways to escape for a while. That said, occasionally a documentary will slip through and catch me completely off guard.
In my own life, I've seen glimpses of what alcohol and drugs can do to a person. And more recently, I've caught glimpses of what bipolar disorder can do to a family. And though you can find help for people with these diseases and addictions, they have to somehow acknowledge and accept the help or it doesn't really help. You can see this again and again in the entertainment industry with folks going in and out of rehab like it has a revolving door.
So learning that an accomplished actor like Joe Pantoliano has been fighting his own battle with mental illness and is doing everything he can to help others likewise afflicted is not only motivating, but a sign of hope in a time when most of us are concerned about things beyond our control like the economy that others are focused on making a real difference in people's lives.
Pantoliano started a foundation – NKM2 (No Kidding, Me 2!) – to fight the stigma of mental illness and raise awareness across the board. Largely focused on education, NKM2 is really trying to open the eyes of the general populace and get them to understand how mental diseases affect individuals and their families to hopefully break down the barriers between so-called "normal" people and folks with "issues"… Since according to the NIH one in every four people has some sort of mental illness – there is no "us" vs. "them" mentality – we are all affected.
The No Kidding, Me 2! documentary clearly expresses Pantoliano's own road from being a victim of mental disease to having it under control with the help of medical professionals, friends, and family, but it goes beyond that and shares the stories of several others on their own roads to recovery. People from all walks of life – a surgeon, a psychologist, a war veteran, and three high school students – share their stories of where they were and where they were as of the filming of the documentary. These are heartbreaking stories but also hopeful ones and that's the key I think. Not only must we figure out what we can do to get this type of disease into the limelight but we must listen to the people who deal with it every day to better understand what we can do to help them, and therefore ourselves, not only cope with it but improve their quality of life.
The lesson to take away from NKM2 is that we must listen because the lives that we help may be our own. Pantoliano and NKM2 have done an amazing job so far, but they need your help. May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. A portion of the DVD sales will go to the NKM2 foundation, but they can always use more help. Let's do what we can. It's an eye-opening documentary that everyone should see. Check out the NKM2.org website for more information.