“Friends & Neighbors” Documentary To Premiere

America is suffering a mental health crisis.

In 2021, reports of anxiety rose 3x. 53% of US adults and 68% of African Americans said that the pandemic had negatively affected their mental health. Gun violence and hate crimes are up. Adolescent suicide rates have quadrupled.

60% of Americans experience at least one adverse childhood experience. 20% experience four or more. 100% experienced unprecedented uncertainty and anxiety during the pandemic.

So many of us are hurting. Many of our nervous systems are maladapted from trauma and chronic stressors – to say nothing of the collective trauma of pandemic isolation, loss, and grief.

In the Wagner Bros news documentary, Friends & Neighbors, premiering October 12th at the Heartland International Film Festival, journalist and filmmaker (Mister Rogers & Me) Benjamin Wagner returns to his childhood to better understand the causes, context, and impact of anxiety, depression and PTSD.

He interrogates his career and our shared cultural context to recognize how trauma, toxic workplaces, and oppressive thinking maladapt nervous systems, contribute to shallow and complex lives, and drive unhealthy coping mechanisms and poor health outcomes.

And he, in the words of television icon Fred Rogers, “looks for the helpers” in post-pandemic America, the people who are working to make themselves and the communities around them whole by helping heal a deeply anxious and uncertain population.

“When I was diagnosed with PTSD, and I learned just a little bit about trauma and its impact,” he says, “I immediately saw it everywhere from school shootings to road rage incidents.”

“So many people are on edge so much of the time,” he says. “Acute and chronic stress has a real impact on our mental health and our physical health. And there are things we can do, steps we can take, to heal ourselves, and help heal our society.”

By sharing our stories and journeys, we make space for others to do the same, and provide roadmaps for healing, and strategies for healthier lives and communities.

Because, as Fred Rogers often said, when we “make the mentionable manageable,” we find a way forward together. And “when we look for the helpers, we know that there’s hope.”

Visit friendsandneighbors.mov to watch the trailer and learn more. And get your tickets at heartlandfilmfestival.org today.

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