On April 17, National Alliance on Mental Illness Fairfield and the Psychology Club teamed up to host an event entitled “Opening Doors, Opening Minds” to raise mental health awareness, featuring Fairfield alumnus and Cinefest 2012 winner John Tessitore, along with four other speaker.

Each speaker provided a look into his or her personal experiences with mental disorders.

President of the Psychology Club, Abbey Matys ’13, spoke about the club’s focus on breaking the stigma associated with mental disorders.

To kick off the event, Catherine Maslan, senior nursing student, took the stage. Maslan is the co-president of NAMI, an up-and-coming club at Fairfield.

NAMI encourages students to help end the negative stigma typically associated with mental disorders. Whilst on the stage, Maslan interacted with the audience by playing a quick round of “myth or fact” to break the ice and introduce the theme of the evening — breaking the stigma.

After Maslan’s activity, John Tessitore’s documentary “Heroes Get Remembered but Legends Never Die” was shown to an attentive audience.

Tessitore’s film tells the heart-wrenching story of his close friend John Cleaver Kelly’s battle with OCD. The film uses multiple ways of telling John Kelly’s story, most notably commentary by his family, friends and personal journals.

The final segment of the movie inspires viewers to do all they can for OCD awareness. Kelly’s close friend Paul Tessitore made one of the closing comments of the film. “Look around you. Look at the person next to you. Look at their problems, [and] see what you can do to help them,” he said.

This 23-minute film left both those who had seen the film, and those who hadn’t yet seen it, in awe.

Sophomore Julie Earls had never seen Tessitore’s documentary before and felt touched by the film. “It was a very moving depiction of a touchy issue,” she said.

On the other hand, Ricky Haas ’15 had seen the documentary multiple times before.

“I’ve gotten emotional every single time I’ve seen it. The more I see it, the more I become connected to John Kelly,” he said.

Haas added, “Because I’m going through similar issues, I start connecting my life to issues he’s gone through. Knowing that other people are battling similar issues really helps. I think that has to be the most effective documentary that I’ve ever seen.”

Following Tessitore’s film, John Kelly’s father, Dr. Stephen Kelly, was called to the stage. He spoke about the logistics of OCD, commenting that OCD is related to alterations in serotonin levels in the body.

Dr. Kelly also mentioned how OCD is different from other mental disorders, “When you have OCD, you know that [your thoughts] are not correct, but they’re still overwhelming you.”

In Tessitore’s documentary, Dr. Kelly said that Tessitore is keeping John Cleaver Kelly’s legacy alive.

During Thursday’s event, Dr. Kelly echoed this earlier sentiment.

Senior nursing students Rebecca Lyons and Kaitlin Dinius then spoke to the audience about eliminating the painful stigma associated with mental disorders.

Lyons mentioned that these disorders are “real and common” and urged the audience that “there are ways to help others”.

Following Lyons’ insights, Dinius took to the stage asking the audience to help in the de-stigmatization of OCD and other mental disorders. She pointed out that anyone could have a mental disorder and to be there for someone who may.

“Sometimes there are no ‘right’ words to say to someone with a mental disorder, but just being there for that person can make a difference,” she commented.

During the question and answer portion of the evening, there were questions about what the next step is. Tessitore mentioned that he will be speaking at Colgate University this week and hopes that this speech will inspire other presentations.

With his presentation, Tessitore hopes others can feel comfortable with embracing their own mental disorders.

This year will be the third annual softball tournament in memory of John Cleaver Kelly, and Tessitore has high hopes.

“What makes the tournament so special is seeing the whole community come together in John’s honor, supporting our fight against OCD,” Tessitore told The Mirror, adding that he hopes to get people outside the community to get involved and raise awareness as well.

He continued, “Our main mission is to change the stigma of mental health, and with hard work, patience, belief, and John Cleaver Kelly’s guidance, we will achieve our goal. If we all work together, I know that our goal will be achieved. If we can help even one person suffering, our goal is being achieved.”

Read more about the JCK fund on their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/JCK-Fund-NEVER-GIVE-UP/465028303570058?fref=ts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.