I just finished my first year of medical school in Ohio, and I just caught your documentary on public television. I am writing to thank you both for sharing your story with me. I learned more by watching this film than I have in all of the psychiatry lectures I have attended. Your film was both brave and beautiful. Thank you very much.
Medical University of Ohio
As professional researchers and educators, we often take a focused approach in addressing mental health issues. In doing so it can be easy to oversimplify the personal and situational realities and complexities faced by family members affected by mental illnesses. Susan Smiley’s Out of the Shadow strikes at the heart of what family members experience day in and day out over their lifetimes, and across multiple generations. Showing this documentary creates urgency and forces an evaluation for our plans in reaching out to individuals with mental illnesses and their family members. It forces us to ask: “Who are the Millie’s and Susan’s out there in the world and how can we best help them?”
Cindy H. Liu, Ph.D
Director of Multicultural Research
Commonwealth Research Center
Instructor in Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Thank you for showing us all your family’s hardships. It helps reinforce that the ‘perfect family’ is a rare breed. May the Heavens look kindly on your mom, and you all.
Thank you Millie, for your willingness to disclose so much of your life story with the world. I am a psychology teacher at a community college in Michigan and I have used your film in my classes for the last couple of years. Time after time students comment on your wit, intelligence, humor, and resilience. And, they mention your beauty… Several days ago we viewed the film, and as always, it elicited much discussion.
The students had many questions about schizophrenia and expressed great dismay regarding the fragmented mental health system. They were especially interested to learn about how you are currently getting on. We all hope that you are living in a safe and nurturing home and that you continue to find meaning and happiness in your life.
Instructor of Psychology
Subject: I cannot thank you enough for understanding
Your film will touch so many people who have no other way to tell others of their pain. Thank you for giving me a place to grieve for my friend, deal with my feelings , and just cry a little about something that I can’t change. I hope your film is seen by millions. thanks for touching my heart.
Subject: The personal impact your film has had on me
I was flipping through the channels last night and landed on a PBS station that was showing your film. Within 10 seconds of hearing your mom speak, and I was completely captivated. I cannot tell you how much your film meant to me… There were so many dynamics of growing up with a mother who has this type of illness and most people don’t have a clue what it was like…I woke up this morning at 5:00 a.m. lying in bed for 2 hours thinking about your film and how similar our own lives were growing up and as adults. It was eerie in a way… From the bottom of my heart, I just wanted to thank you so much for your film. It was beautiful and so needed. Who knows? Maybe one day I too will tell my story to the world.
Less than 24 hours ago, I viewed Out of the Shadow on the local PBS station. I want to explain to you that during a span of 60 minutes, I found myself totally engaged and brought to tears by your message. I find it compelling that I am sharing the following story with you, a stranger, when rarely speak to family and friends about it….I thank you for sharing, for listening and for having a positive impact on our lives.
Thank you, Susan, for your film. Thank you for being an educator and advocate for this special part of our population at a time when there are ever shrinking resources for them.
Subject: I can’t believe this movie!
My mom growing up was not diagnosed with schizophrenia per se, but there was a very present mental illness…i can so relate to your film…there is so much i can say but the bottom line is…Thank you!! You approached this topic with such compassion and I had a definite and distinct healing occur while watching the film…it touched parts in me that I have stuffed down for years…. thank you for being an inspired angel of awareness, compassion and healing! I applaud your courage. Please broadcast the film again! This is a story that needs to be told.
Subject: A big fan of your film
I saw your documentary on PBS last night, and I was deeply moved by it. I have suffered from schizo-affective disorder all my life, and now, at 43, I find myself homeless and unemployed largely because of it, as well as inadequate treatment in the clutches of county physicians. I am thankful to you for creating this wonderful piece, “Out of the Shadow.” It sheds a softer more humane light upon mental illness….I suppose what perhaps moved me the most about this film, was the tireless love and devotion Millie’s daughter’s have shown toward their mother. I thought of my own family, and how little they understand my condition, and how little they care to. Please keep up the good work. I wish you and your mother well.
Subject: Thank You So Much!
Thank You. I happened on your film last night by accident, and I’m so glad I did. My Mother also has schizophrenia and I have spent my entire adult life trying to cope with my childhood. Your film spoke the words I was never able to say, from shame, guilt for not loving my mother, and fear that people wouldn’t understand. Thank you again and again, I can’t tell you how transformative and therapeutic it was to watch and to know that someone understands.
Subject: I thought I knew it all
I saw your documentary on our local PBS station and wanted to thank you for telling your family’s story. Millie is a perfect subject for a documentary on schizophrenia – a beautiful, intelligent young woman whose life is torn apart by horrible disease and a broken system. If it could happen to an all-American girl like Millie, then by the grace of God it could happen to any one of us. As a son of a schizophrenic mother, Millie’s story is very familiar to me…. I never realized that the fear, frustration, angershame that I felt could be so universal….All you can do is your best and if you can do that, there is not reason to feel any guilt or shame. Thank you for having the strength to tell your family story. It’s sparked a lot of thought and discussion even with someone who thought they knew it all.
Subject: Thank you
Susan, I just finished watching your family’s story. My father had the same illness and it was very healing for me to see that someone else understood. You will have helped so many people with this film and perhaps people will not be so hesitant to help family, if they see this situation arise.
Los Angeles, CA
Subject: I am eternally grateful
I had turned my local PBS station on while I was preparing lunch and started watching “Out of the Shadow”, and I thought this was my life with my paranoid-schizophrenic mother. I am a 53 year old woman who’s mother committed suicide in 1969… a floodgate of relief spread though me, I wasn’t alone in my experience. Your film validated so many of my traumatic memories of my childhood. I also now do not feel responsible for what happened to me or my mother. I am married with two daughters and have learned to become a good mother but I’ve always had a shadow over me so thank you for letting more sun in, you have made my life more joyous. Thank you for releasing me from my isolation.
Subject: Your amazing film
Dear Susan, I can’t believe I’m writing to a complete stranger, but I know you and your sister, Tina, know me in ways my closest friends and relatives may never. Thank you for giving voice and story to those of us raised by mentally ill parents. How amazed I was at your ability to “remain in your own skins”, to view the situations through your own eyes, to not be torn by your moms psychotic perspective. Anyway, thank you again for opening the door of the mental hospital and showing America that it’s about families and children, daughters and sons. You have started with two voices, yours and Tina’s, and with time, organization, and more educational works like your film perhaps the shame and ignorance will become a thing of the past because our voices will become a loud waterfall instead of the deep quiet river they are now. With Gratitude,
Subject: Out of the Shadow…WOW
What an incredibly powerful film you have given us!! Truly such an extraordinary gift to all who will benefit as a result of your willingness to share your story. And your obvious dedication and deep commitment in producing such a work can’t help but serve as an inspiration to all. BRAVO !! And THANK YOU!!!
Subject: just finished watching
I was absolutely enthralled with this documentary. What an amazing job you do of honoring, not only your family, but others who have had to go through similar trials. How very lucky your mother is that you all have been able to stick with it. I can only imagine what these years must have been like for your family. So, here’s to you for speaking on behalf of so many who can’t, for whatever reason. Thank you for sharing,
Subject: Your Story
I just saw your film and I wanted to tell you that I am quite moved. This was my first glimpse of the world that you and many others have had to endure. I laughed and cried during your program, sometimes feeling connected through my own battles with OCD and clinical depression. The strength, patience and love that you show towards your mother made me appreciate what my loved ones surely have had to endure with me. Thanks to you and your family for letting us into your lives.
I have a twenty three year old daughter with schizophrenia. It really hit home with me. I am glad to know that I am not alone in dealing with a family member with this problem. Thank you for sharing with us.
Des Moines, IA