17 June 2008 from Mental Illness Awareness Week
Bruce Saunders has found an effective way to normalize, de-stigmatize, and educate people about mental illness and recovery.
While in hospital in 1993, Bruce discovered a 100-seat lecture auditorium with a video projector, and the idea of showing films there for patients and ex-patients captured his imagination.
Thus began Movie Monday. Since its inception, a series of brilliant films have been viewed,
and a parade filmmakers and special guests have visited the modest theatre.
Showing up week after week – addressing the audience, consistently putting up eclectic and creative programming, talking about mental illness and health,
making at least part of the psychiatric hospital a friendly approachable place – has had a pervasive positive effect on the mental health community. Even though the venue is small, the ripples of information, positive attitude, and hope has traveled into the community.
Bruce has found that films can stimulate discourse about mental illness. The first film he presented, "Benny and Joon" is a popular film with a mental illness theme. The post-film exchange was passionate and insightful, and Bruce recognized that the viewing provided a great opportunity for discussion on dealing with mental illnesses. Since then, Movie Monday's schedule has included a rich variety of films, such as "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest", "Shine", "Girl Interrupted", and even "What About Bob"
Bruce and a friend, long-time collaborator Bruce Wallace, also produced a series of Reel Madness Film Festivals, "five days of films and discussions about mental illness and recovery".
Now, fifteen years and nearly a thousand events later, the Movie Monday project remains a consuming interest and creative expression for Bruce.
Through his openness, Bruce's family and friends are far better prepared with knowledge about bipolar disorder and depression. Involvement with a mood disorder support group, and a rewarding physical day-job in landscape gardening are steadying influences for him as well.
Bruce still has an illness that he has to manage, but it is a great accomplishment that he now has this great privilege of presenting the pick of the film industry to vibrant, engaged audiences – downstairs in the same institution where he was once so absolutely without hope.
"One of the best results of the initiative has been the ability to shed the baggage that comes with the secrecy of having a mental illness, and to make something constructive out of our family's challenges of mental illness. I now see the healing effect of that openness on a weekly basis Although I've still got an illness that I have to manage, it's been a very positive move for me and my family." - Bruce Saunders