The film helped me to process the experience. What do you do? How are you supposed to act? There's no manual for that.
As a parent who lived through the loss of a child, what compelled you to turn such a private tragedy into a film?
Well, the film is about our son's bipolar illness and his suicide at fifteen, which was so shocking, and numbing, and painful, and horrifying that the only thing we could think was that no one else can go through this, or should. It's really a parent's worst nightmare, especially after having struggled through such a terrible illness and doing everything we could to try and help him.
The film helped me to process the experience. What do you do? How are you supposed to act? There's no manual for that. For me it was really a way to dig through it and try to ask as many questions as I could, and examine Evan's life and his death so I could better understand it. That said, it is not an educational film, nor does it necessarily offer any solutions. But it does raise a lot of questions I think are important to ask, and discuss.
Bipolar disorder is such a misunderstood mental illness. Can you describe what you learned about it through your experience?
Mental illness itself is pretty incomprehensible to those of us who haven't struggled with it. It's particularly hard on family members who have to live with it. Bipolar illness is what we used to call manic depression. I think we're more familiar with the term "manic depression" and I think we also are more familiar with that illness presenting in adults. I had never heard of it in relation to a child.
With Evan, almost from when he was born, there was something going on with him both with his behavior and demeanor. He seemed to be very dark and moody. It wasn't until he was hospitalized following an attempted suicide attempt at school at the age of eleven that he was actually diagnosed as bipolar. That was the first time I had heard that term in relationship to a child. And I was shocked.
There wasn't much literature available in 2000. So we went and tried to do as much research as possible and try to learn about it. I was starting to think that indeed, yes, children can not only be depressed, which the establishment did not used to think, but they can also be bipolar, which is depression with a manic element to it.
There are no tests for it, so you can't take your family member to a doctor and get a blood test and come home and say, "Well, now we know we're bipolar." It's more a measure of answering questions and charting the mood of the patient. So you never even really know if your child or your loved one is actually bipolar other than by analyzing the symptoms.