The two-day screening of the highly anticipated documentary Almost Sunrise at the Royal Military College in Kingston attracted an estimated 300 people, combined. The screening, however, was much more than just that, it was an evening that shed light on mental health stigmas.
People from all walks of life, civilian and military, came out in support of the event, including MP Mark Gerretsen and MPP Sophie Kiwala of the Kingston area.
“I think it’s absolutely amazing that leaders in the community are attending functions like these especially given the fact that it’s about mental health. They showed genuine interest in mental health in the society in which they surround themselves in and are leaders in,” said MCpl. (ret’d) Collin Fitzgerald, organizer of the event.
According to Fitzgerald, both politicians gave “impactful, heartfelt and sincere,” speeches at the public screening about mental health.
The event also included a post-movie Q&A session and a talk from Service member Kerri Tadeu on the role of caregivers.
The movie, which follows the story of two Iraq War veterans, Tom Voss and Anthony Anderson who are struggling with mental injuries post-service, was also privately screened by 21 Electronic Warfare Regiment, a high tempo unit that trains with every Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group in the Canadian Army. As such, the regiment has a high deployment rate. Fitzgerald has worked with the unit in the past to bring awareness to mental health issues.
“Almost Sunrise touched on many issues that I have either personally experienced or have had to address as part the Regiment’s Command Team. These type of training and professional development opportunities are very important for the education of our soldiers both in terms of reducing stigma as well as providing information on the various mental health support programs that are available to them,” said 21 Electronic Warfare Regiment, CWO Rob Markell.
The public screenings, however, transcended beyond the documentary and showcased the recovery of MCpl. Fitzgerald, who has battled with post-traumatic stress disorder for several years himself. Many of the people in the audience on Jan. 13 and Jan. 14 were people who have played a role in his journey.
“Some of these people came in contact with me in a point of my life where I wasn’t doing very well. They were very elevated to see how well I was doing and that I was bringing awareness and trying to educate people,” noted Fitzgerald.
He received numerous amount of positive feedback from those who were caregivers to him throughout his journey, those who, Fitzgerald believes, made it possible for him to fight his battles.
“The feedback was extremely positive. People were really happy to see I was out educating and bringing light to mental health stigmas,” stated Fitzgerald.
For Fitzgerald, the movie itself left a deep impact.
“The film itself was emotionally draining on me like it was very powerful,” commented Fitzgerald.
He also admired how the movie shed light on caregivers because he has realized from his own personal experiences, that mental health not only affects an individual but everyone around them.
“The fact that they were really touching on the caregivers and the roles of the veterans lives was very impacting for many reasons because it was truth. A lot of people don’t see the other side of the chaos that goes on when somebody returns from their operations,” said Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald is now gearing up to run a Power Breath Workshop from Jan. 19-23 in Kingston.