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NMSU filmmakers create documentary series humanizing mental illness

An eight-part documentary series called ?Labeled? is the brainchild of three New Mexico State University Creative Media Institute professors, who hope to sell the series to major television networks and take the documentaries into Las Cruces schools to help the public gain a better understanding of mental illness.


Two people sitting at a table being interviewed and filmed.
CMI assistant professor Ross Marks (center holding camera) and CMI students film in the home of one of a Las Cruces family who will share their story about mental illness in the documentary series ?Labeled.?

Ross Marks, Mitch Fowler and Sherwin Lau, CMI assistant professors in the College of Arts and Sciences, researched the series for the last few years, conducting dozens of interviews with people in Las Cruces living with mental illness as well as the professionals who work with them.

?As a film maker, I thought the best thing we could do was try to create something that would help people see what mental illnesses really are,? said Marks. ?Not the stigma that comes with them.?

A mental illness is a condition that affects a person?s thinking, feeling or mood. While many people may be diagnosed with the same mental illness, each individual may react differently.

?The series was inspired by the growing stigmas about mental illness,? said Fowler. ?We wanted to shed the labels and show the real truth behind it.?

Although research for the series has been going on for a few years, shooting began in July 2016.

The documentary series will include eight episodes up to one hour long, each focusing on a different type of mental illness. The first will focus on post-traumatic stress disorder and the second will deal with schizophrenia. Other episodes already planned include bi-polar disorder, depression and schizoaffective disorder.

Filmmakers hope those who see the ?Labeled? documentary series will have greater compassion once they get to know the people beyond the labels and hear more about their lives and learn insights from those who interact with them regularly.

The subjects range in age from 18-75. ?Mental illness doesn?t just affect a specific group of people, or even a specific type of person,? Marks said. ?We want to show people that.?

Others working on the series include CMI senior fellow Mark Medoff and assistant professor Sherwin Lau as well as current and former CMI students.

?I?ve learned a lot about mental illness since working on this series,? said Katrina Marquez, a producer for the film and recent graduate of the CMI program. ?Mental illness does not define someone, and I hope the film changes that perception for others the way it has for me.?

With backing from county government, the series? creators plan to take ?Labeled? documentaries into Las Cruces schools to expand the outreach effort and help address depression, addiction and suicide.

?Mental illnesses have gained a harsh reputation that we want to change into a subject that people can talk about, not be afraid of,? said Marks. ?We hope to use this as a teaching tool to help young people gain a better understanding.?

The first episode of ?Labeled? is expected to premier at the J Paul Taylor symposium in March of 2017.

For more information about the documentary series, contact Marks at rossm@nmsu.edu.