I Am A Voice Here - OC87 Recovery Diaries

I Am A Voice Here


Scenes from the OC87 Recovery Diaries video workshop at WHYY’s Dorrance H. Hamilton Media Commons.

Scenes from the OC87 Recovery Diaries video workshop at WHYY’s Dorrance H. Hamilton Media Commons.

This fall, OC87 Recovery Diaries and public television station WHYY have teamed up with groups from four area mental health providers to create original short films that detail journeys of recovery and transformation.

In her blog post in Psychology Today, Pamela Rutledge, Ph.D. lists several psychological reasons why stories are so powerful:

• Stories have always been a primal form of communication.
• Stories are about collaboration and connection.
• Stories are how we think. They are how we make meaning of life
• Stories provide order.
• Stories are how we are wired.
• Stories are the pathway to engaging our right brain and triggering our imagination. Through imagination, we tap into creativity that is the foundation of innovation, self-discovery and change.

This list is at the very heart of OC87 Recovery Diaries, which is at the intersection of creative storytelling and mental health.


Craig Santoro, WHYY’s Director of Media Instruction (standing at tripod) gives filmmakers instructions on using the camera.

The first time filmmakers were given camera, tripod, and microphone and access to editing equipment at the Dorrance H. Hamilton Public Media Commons at WHYY. In addition, participants are being guided through the storytelling process – from initial concept to final post-production.


Maiken Scott (lower left), WHYY’s Behavioral Health Reporter, giving tips for successful interviews to video workshop participants.

The goal is simple. Help people craft true, powerful stories that resonate with viewers and provide inspiration for people on their own journeys of recovery. Stories about a lived experience are a successful way to engage people from the outside of the mental health field. From within, there’s no better way to connect with someone than to say, “I’ve been there. I know. Here’s my story.”


Hearing Voices


Associate Media Instructor Lisa Wilk helps filmmaking team Berta Britz, Robert D . Martin and Timothy Connors edit their project.

Berta Britz, and Robert D. Martin, from Creating Increased Connections’ invited Timothy Connors from the Montgomery County Hearing Voices peer support groups to share his experience with hearing voices. In his film, Tim shares his recovery and he and his friends talk about how they have learned to create a healthy relationship with these voices. Through the support of family and groups Tim leads a happier and healthier life.

“I am a voice here.” — Berta Britz


“When a person helps another person share their story and it shares in the right manner it helps the whole movement to excel. And when this was done for me it was a privilege because it made me look like a superstar.” — Robert D. Martin


“People who hear voices are able to recover.” — Tim Connors



8 Tips for Telling Your Own Story

Do you have a story to tell? Chances are, you do. This free guide will walk you through our Editor in Chief's top suggestions.

The Story of John Rocco


Angelo Colon and John Rocco work on post production of their video.

Angelo Colon and John Rocco, from NorthEast Treatment Centers chose to address stigma in their video project. Stigma often dictates the way we act and the things we feel we are able to do. Rocco shares his story of recovery, addiction, mental illness, and survival but makes clear these words do not define him but are a part of who he is today.

“I saw someone do a video and I thought, I can do that. So I’ve been making little videos. My role is to be a vision of hope for someone. I came through the NET (NorthEast Treatment Center), I also did outpatient there and then became an employee.” — Angelo Colon


“I’m recovering from 28 years of addiction, I also suffer from major depression and ADHD. I’ve been in recovery for five years. I’m also a 29-year survivor of HIV. If I can come out of 28 years of addiction and prison, you can do it too.– John Rocco


Learning How To Talk


WHYY’s Director of Media Instruction Craig Santoro assists William Lipscomb and Evan Kaplan edit their story.

Evan Kaplan and William Lipscomb from Child and Family Connections, Inc. are working on a film that tells Evan’s story, which includes a scene from a very low point in his life when Evan planned his suicide. Through his relationship with his daughter and creation of support groups Evan has learned to live with his diagnosis and has many terrific reasons to live.

“I struggle with bipolar disorder and ADHD and it’s been a central struggle in my life. A few years ago my daughter (who was nine at the time) came to me and said, ‘Dad I wish I could talk to other kids who had parents with mental health problems.’ Child and Family Connections has grown from a group of people working to find support to a full fledged non-profit.” — Evan Kaplan


“I had to learn to live all over again, one day at a time… I love being involved and learning new things. This experience of editing and filming has been amazing.” — William Lipscomb


We’re To Be Heard: Arah’s Story


Robert Cleveland and Arah Cooper work on their video, which features a piano performance by Arah.

Arah Cooper and Robert Cleveland from Horizon House Inc. are telling Arah’s story of recovery. Arah shares that a key idea in her transformation from victim to survivor is forgiveness. In addition to other support systems, Arah plays piano to help her cope with her past in trauma.

“People have strengths, goals, and dreams. People are empowered when they have a voice. Life is a beautiful journey. You can do anything you want to do.” — Robert Cleveland


Production intern Laura Farrell consults with Robert Cleveland and Arah Cooper at the video workshop.

“I practice forgiveness in my daily life.” — Arah Cooper

Follow this link to see the completed shorts, along with comments from the filmmaking team about their experiences making the films.

Follow this link to read Pamela Rutledge’s Psychology Today post on stories.



Angelo Colon and John Rocco are teaming up to tell “The Story of John Rocco.”

“Making videos has made me think about new ideas and opened new doors.” — Arah Cooper

See Related Recovery Stories: Mental Health Short Films

OC87 Recovery Diaries and public television station WHYY have collaborated to team up with first-time filmmakers to create a new series of videos that tell inspiring journeys of recovery. A special thanks to WHYY’s Craig Santoro, Director of Media Instruction, Lisa Wilk (2015), Sarah Milinski, and Steve Dixon, Media Instructors at the Dorrance H. Hamilton Public Media Commons at WHYY for their technical and storytelling support; and to WHYY behavioral health reporter Maiken Scott for giving her support and a workshop on interviewing techniques. OC87 co-director and documentary filmmaker Glenn Holsten is the project facilitator. Bud Clayman is executive producer of the project. Follow this link to watch all of the videos in this series >