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MIMH Filmmakers, Gregory and Pancella Garner International Attention - posted on March 11, 2014

On February 12, 2014, in Calgary, Alberta, MIMH’s Kelly Gregory and Thom Pancella’s documentary, “Good Golly Miss Molly! A Family’s Transition Story,” showed to an eager audience at the Picture This… Film Festival (PTFF). The PTFF is an international film festival dedicated to featuring films about and/or by persons with disabilities. Their showing was followed by applause, a twenty minute Q&A session, and audience members told Gregory and Pancella that “Molly” had touched them.

“Canada seems to be in a similar situation as the U.S. with regards to transitioning people out of state-run institutions and into community living,” Pancella said. “That made this film especially poignant and also made for a lively discussion.”

“Molly” tells the story of Molly Thomas who was placed in the Marshall Habilitation Center at the age of four because her family felt it was the best place to care for her specific needs. The film documents Molly’s transition, aided by her siblings, as she moved out of the habilitation center and into community living. It was funded by the Missouri Planning Council on Developmental Disabilities, now known as the Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council.

“The objective is to help families engage in the transition process, by giving them a realistic example of someone who ‘traditionally’ would not have been a good candidate to move into the community making a successful transition,” Pancella noted.

Unlike some other filmmakers, Gregory and Pancella go into each situation with open eyes and waiting ears, letting the camera capture what it may. They are not constrained by a pre-determined point. This is evident in their youtube catalogue, at www.YouTube.com/cetv, where one can find a wide range of projects including everything from puppet shows, interviews, and documentaries to fully scripted pieces.

“We really try to let the story tell itself, we don’t like to guide the process,” Gregory said...

“Most times the voice will present itself, even if the person themselves cannot speak.”

“The real fun in producing documentaries is not knowing at the outset what the story is or how it will unfold,” Pancella added.

This approach comes as a relief at a time when the most visible documentaries we encounter wear their agendas on their sleeves.

Though neither she nor her family was able to attend, they were kept fully aware of the proceedings in Calgary. A follow-up piece, titled “Beyond Expectations: The Continuing Story of Molly Thomas,” is also available on MIMH’s youtube account and shows Molly’s continued success in community living.

When asked what was in store for their next film, Gregory and Pancella both indicated that anyone’s guess is as good as theirs. Given their open ended, adaptive, and organic method of filmmaking, that should come as no surprise.

“Future projects are determined by our funding sources more than what we would like to see produced,” Pancella said.

“[But] each project is different and we approach each from the perspective that is needed,” Gregory noted.

If you have media-related needs, Gregory and Pancella can help. They welcome the challenge of each new project. Given the wide impact of “Molly” and its international recognition, one would hope that MIMH’s team of filmmakers get numerous opportunities to turn their lens on many more issues in contemporary mental health.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day - posted on January 13, 2014
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is January 20th. "50 Years of Fulfilling the Dream" is a video documentary created by the joint effort of the Missouri Institute of Mental Health and the University of Missouri - St. Louis Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity in honor of the 50th anniversary of both the University of Missouri - St. Louis and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. The focus of the film is to explore the role and importance of diversity in the university's past, evaluate current accomplishments and challenges, and look toward future progress. UMSL students, faculty, staff, and alumni from different generations and backgrounds share their personal experiences and insights concerning diversity both on campus and in the larger context of history, American society, and the world at large. read more...

MIMH names Felix Vincenz interim director - posted on December 20, 2013
Felix Vincenz, chief operating officer of St. Louis Psychiatric Rehabilitation Center, has been named interim director of the Missouri Institute of Mental Health at the University of MissouriĀ­St. Louis. read more...

Free Suicide Prevention App Developed by MIMH Available on iTunes Store - posted on December 12, 2013
Many people feel unprepared to talk to others about suicide. To make matters worse, there is a prevailing misconception that it is best not to engage people in a conversation about suicide as it might encourage them to act. However, research demonstrates that this is simply not true, and people who are considering suicide need and even appreciate direct communication about their feelings.

A new Suicide Lifeguard mobile app developed by the Missouri Institute of Mental Health (MIMH) and the Missouri Department of Mental Health (DMH) is now available at no cost at the iTunes Store.

Suicide Lifeguard is a FREE app intended for anyone concerned that someone they know may be thinking of suicide. It provides information on:

  • How to recognize warning signs of suicide;
  • How to ask about suicidal thoughts and/or intentions;
  • How to respond; and
  • Where to refer someone.

Features of the app include direct, immediate connection to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, direct access to national and Missouri resource websites, and specific resources for military/veterans, those who identify as LGBTQ, Spanish-speaking individuals, and those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

"I hope that folks who use our app will gain more confidence in their ability to talk to someone who may be having suicidal thoughts," said Joel Epstein, research associate professor at the MIMH who led the app development team for programming and creative.

The suicide-prevention information included in the app was produced by the Missouri Suicide Prevention Project, a joint effort between the Missouri Institute of Mental Health at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and the Missouri Department of Mental Health (DMH). The project was made possible by a grant to the DMH from Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) including a subcontract to UMSL.

The Missouri Suicide Prevention Project creates a statewide youth suicide prevention response using evidence-based practices and grounded in public/private collaboration. The project, administered by the Missouri Department of Mental Health, is independently evaluated by the Missouri Institute of Mental Health, a part of the University of Missouri-St. Louis, ensuring the interventions are tailored to the particular needs of Missouri communities.

Under the project, an extensive number of suicide prevention trainings have been conducted across Missouri, many of offer wallet cards or handbooks to participants that provide additional information or reminders about how to help someone who may be suicidal. However, participants often don't keep such resources with them at all times and they may not be available when needed. On the other hand, smartphone users are usually within reach of their phones. So having a mobile phone app that can provide assistance at a person's fingertips is a great way to enhance current training efforts.

The iPhone, iPad and Android app version are currently available.

People involved in the Missouri Suicide Prevention Project through the SAMSHA grant and the subcontract to UMSL include:

  • Principal Investigator: Dr. Joseph Parks, distinguished research professor
  • Project Director: Scott Perkins, project director
  • Evaluation and Content:
    • Liz Sale, associate research professor
    • Collin Miller, research analyst
    • Ginny Weil, project development specialist
    • Julie Matthews; research specialist
  • App Development:
    • Joel Epstein, research associate professor
    • Kelly Gregory, senior multimedia specialist
    • Kate Watkins, coordinator, program/project support

Joe Parks Named Director of MO HealthNet Division - posted on December 04, 2013
Gov. Jay Nixon announced that UMSL's Dr. Joe Parks, MD, director of the Missouri Institute of Mental Health, has been named director of the MO HealthNet Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services. Dr. Felix T. Vincenz, PhD (clinical psychology), will serve as interim director beginning December 16, 2013. read more...

Dr. Jodi Heaps Joins MIMH - posted on November 13, 2013
Dr. Jodi Heaps recently joined the faculty of MIMH, bringing with her an expertise in neuropsychology and a special interest in HIV and its psychological comorbidities, such as substance abuse and depression. While earning her Ph.D. in psychology at University of Missouri - St. Louis, completed in 2012, Heaps studied the mechanisms of HIV Associated Neurological Diseases (HAND) and whether the various comorbidities or some other mechanism contributes to cognitive deficits in HIV patients. She also studied HIV in Thailand and South Africa, where there are different types of HIV which supposedly have less effect on the brain, to see if people in these countries with HIV were in fact affected less and, if so, whether the differences were in virus or the brains.

She looks forward to working with other researchers and expanding the work done at MIMH and intends to continue her HIV research while also exploring other areas using cognitive testing and MRI, tools which she did not previously have at her disposal.

'Let's Talk About It' flash mob raises awareness about mental illness - posted on November 04, 2013
The Missouri Institute of Mental Health (MIMH), Provident Inc. Independence Center and Clubhouse International have teamed up to present a “Let’s Talk About It” mental health flash mob. The dancers will break out of a march that will be going down Market Street on Oct. 22. The event is aimed at eradicating stigmas around mental health issues. The march is made up of hundreds of mental health professionals and people living with mental illness who are part of an Oct. 19-24 “Clubhouse Seminar” exploring community-based treatment and recovery. Participants from 20 countries and 35 states are scheduled to attend the seminar. read more...

Chancellor recognizes MIMH staff member with excellence awards  - posted on November 04, 2013
Kelly Gregory, senior multimedia specialist at the Missouri Institute of Mental Health, received the 2013 Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in an Administrative/Professional position. With a statewide audience and the need to be more cost effective, Kelly developed a four-format approach to communicating the MIMH message to hundreds of people. More than any traditional audio/visual guy he is the ultimate problem solver and has become a de facto network administrator, web designer, marketer, public speaker, buyer, installer and program coordinator. “I have never met anyone who has willingly and intentionally taken on a wider variety of tasks,” said Thom Pancella, project director of MIMH outreach, in his nomination letter for Gregory. Pancella repeatedly described Gregory’s “versatility” and how it resulted in innovative solutions that were both financially feasible and successful at engaging the community.
(Photo by August Jennewein)