By Mary Ellen Aldrich, Arts & Culture Editor
Stronger is a film about the marathon runner Jeff Bauman. He was injured during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, resulting in both his legs being amputated above the knee. The film follows his journey of recovery, both physically and psychologically, as he works with the support of friends and family to face rehabilitation and post-traumatic stress.
The film screening and panel discussion were held on April 11 on the USM Portland campus. Held in the Abromson center, the event also provided captioning on the film and American Sign Language interpreters for the panel to ensure the event was as inclusive as possible.
There are many facets of diversity which often remain hidden, including disability and mental health. Stronger brings those things to the surface in an honest manner, providing an open door to discussion. Following the film there was a panel discussion to raise awareness of some of those facets, with a specific focus on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The panel discussed what recovery might look like, as well as provided resources and encouragement for those going through it. The panelists were Joanne Benica, the Director of Disability Services; Charles Bernacchio, the Coordinator of Rehabilitation Counseling and a Counselor Education faculty member; Janis Mallon, the Interim Director of Counseling Services; and Dara Saffer a Clinical Social Work/Therapist, LCSW who graduated from USM with a master’s degree in Social Work.
Several of USM’s organizations worked together to make the film screening and panel discussion possible. The event was sponsored by the USM Disability Services Center (DSC) with a grant from the USM Intercultural Diversity Advisory Council. Other sponsors included the Counselor Education Department; Health and Counseling Services; USM Psychology Club; Psychology Department; Recovery Oriented Campus Center; the School of Social Work; Student Activities; Student Affairs; and Veteran Services.
The hope was for anyone going into, or currently in, the fields of psychology, social work, counselor education, rehabilitation counseling and other related fields would get the chance to learn more about the effects of PTSD and disabilities on mental health. The event was also geared towards providing support, affirmation and encouragement for those who have PTSD and to increase compassion, empathy and understanding of those who have been affected by trauma.
The DSC listed their mission for the event on their site, saying, “We seek to create dialogue, reduce stigma around disabilities and mental health, and to help connect students, faculty and staff with programs, services and support. This movie has received critical artistic acclaim and has been heralded as providing a realistic portrayal of someone with an acquired disability. The movie is based on a book by Jeff Bauman and he was also consulted in the making of the film.”