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Orchestrating Change Screening – Event Notes By Matthew Valerie

by November 29, 2021 0

The film “Orchestrating Change” is about an organization named ME2, the only orchestra in the world that was created entirely for people who are diagnosed with a mental illness and/or disorder. It was founded by Ronald Braunstein, as a way to combat discrimination for mental illness. His upbringing, which included many challenges due to his bipolar disorder, led him to wanting to change perceptions of mental illness through his passion in music, which led to him forming the orchestra.

One of the missions of the orchestra has been to challenge the stigma that those with mental illness carry. Ronald, and others, want the general public to know that people with mental illnesses are ordinary people at the end of the day, who are capable of living everyday lives, similar to anyone else. We see this in one scene where Ronald and the M2 Orchestra are performing live in the Boston airport. We also see this as Ronald is speaking at the Kennedy Forum, discussing his struggles with mental illness growing up, as a way to create conversation and erase stigmas.

Throughout the movie, we are introduced to some members of the orchestra. They describe what their diagnoses are, and the challenges they’ve faced growing up due to their mental disorder. Being in the orchestra has given them a sense of community, a sense of belonging, and a support system that some of them never had. While it is not required to have a mental illness to join the orchestra, most members do have some diagnosis, or at least have a family member who is diagnosed.

Being in the orchestra has given its members a sense of community and a judgment-free environment, but they still go through challenges that life can bring. Some have faced such issues with their health and well-being, others have faced difficulties in completing everyday tasks, and some have even faced troubles with the law. Even with these challenges, they find a way to come back to the orchestra, giving them a drive and a sense of purpose again that they may have not felt before.

A discussion of the movie was led by Elizabeth Berggren, a former psychiatric nurse.  She informed audience members about mental health resources including facilities such as the Western State Institution and psychiatric institutions. She also discussed how prisons and jails also act as facilities for those with mental challenges. Fortunately, psychologists, therapists, peer support counselors, family and others can all act as a support system.

NAMI, the National Association of Mental Illness, is a large organization that provides help and information about mental illness. There is also a branch in Washington State named NAMI WA. She said that community resources are often lacking, which can lead to people feeling underserved. She is active in getting the latest information on legislation and public policy surrounding mental illness, which she was able to keep up to date on through the National Association of Mental Illness website. She stated an increase in funding for telehealth, while it can be very helpful for people in rural areas, but those areas may have trouble with broadband. She had mentioned LEAD, a law enforcement assisted diversion program, which is a program to help law enforcement better assist those with mental illness. She mentioned in 2018, legislation was passed against police force against those with mental illness. They would like to set up a seperate 988 call number for those with mental illness, in case of emergency. There are ongoing talks of trying to provide training for psychologists for those in rural areas.

The Washington Coalition for Police Accountability was another group which advocates for better police accountability in communities, and a bill was introduced to prevent police from small traffic stops, as they can escalate from small stops.

Elizabeth then asked audience members how the pandemic has been on our mental health. People discussed how difficult it has been because of job and financial worries as well as restrictions on seeing family and friends and just enjoying the outdoors. Some said that it wasn’t as hard for them because they are introverts, but they recognized  that it was harder for people in nursing homes as they couldn’t see others and be outdoors.

One audience member, who worked in mental illness and has a private practice, mentioned that she feels there’s a big lack of funding for housing, but there are conversations about this issue. Fountain House, which is a day program, was described as a supportive group for mental health. Emerald House in Capitol Hill in Seattle has a similar model.

The discussion then turned to Joel’s Law. There’s a new low barrier entrance for apartments for those with mental health challenges in Shoreline. Recovery Cafe is an organization where there are activities for people with mental illness. One audience member mentioned that there is a  ME2 Orchestra in Portland. Another audience member discussed the degree of separation of people with mental illness from others, even from loved ones and/or co-workers so she was pleased that the movie tried to show that it is possible for those with mental illnesses to be more open with their difficulties, while still living their everyday lives. For more information on mental illness and how you can be involved, the following links are provided below :


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