The Citizen Recommends: The Public

Join the Mental Health Partnerships and director Emilio Estevez for a film about people helping people

The Citizen Recommends: The Public

Join the Mental Health Partnerships and director Emilio Estevez for a film about people helping people

With Captain Marvel topping the box office and every movie theater across the country displaying posters for action-packed superhero films, it can feel as though one needs supernatural powers to reign supreme. But Philly nonprofit Mental Health Partnerships’ (MHP) CEO and President Adriana Torres-O’Connor wants citizens to realize that you don’t need magic strength to make a difference in your metropolis.

That’s why on March 28th MHP will show The Public, a film about people helping people struggling with homelessness and mental illness. The plot focuses on a group of people experiencing homelessness who find respite in a Chicago public library, and the librarians and police who interact with them.

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“What’s really special about this film is that [it’s] about people helping each other,” Torres-O’Connor says. “I really think that’s what moves society forward, in terms of not only helping those who need it most, but helping everybody. Mental health and mental illness impact tens of millions of Americans each year, regardless of your background or where you come from.”

Since 1951, MHP has provided community-based resources for people with mental illness in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. It runs learning centers where people in recovery from mental illness and addiction share experiences and work toward recovery with others facing similar struggles. It also advocates for people-first mental health care, a movement that’s helping to destigmatize mental health issues with mindful language and an emphasis on patients’ dignity and humanity.

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MHP board member Tracy Blumenfeld first saw The Public at the Hamptons International Film Festival and knew she wanted to bring it to Philly. “We have to get more people understanding what’s really going on. To do it through a movie is such a gift,” Blumenfeld says.

Directly after the screening, there will be a panel discussion with director Emilio Estevez and author Ryan Dowd. The $26 admission fee will go towards supporting MHP’s outreach teams and recovery learning centers, which provide resources like showers and laundry facilities to people struggling with homelessness and addiction.

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Blumenfield said homelessness, addiction and mental illness often intersect, and she’s noticed that people don’t know how to help people they see facing these issues. She added that the film and panel can help get people more involved in a healthy way.

“In every initiative MHP does, we’re trying to get more people in the community engaged and knowledgeable,” she said. “Any opportunity to build awareness in a non-threatening way is really important.”

Torres-O’Connor said she hopes the film will have a domino effect for those who view it.

“We’re hoping that the attendees of this screening will use this film as a non-intimidating springboard to talk with their friends, family and others about the important social issues of homelessness and mental illness,” she added. “I hope it will increase awareness, reduce stigma, and move toward social change.”

Thursday, March 28, 6 pm, $26, Philadelphia Film Center, 1412 Chestnut St.

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