Hear A Story, Tell A Story, Change The Story

Into the Light

A feature documentary about a Marine returning from Afghanistan with the invisible injuries of war who meets a therapist who is confronting her own family history of mental illness.

About our Film

Our story focuses on Brendan O'Toole, a former Marine, and his struggle to assimilate back into society after returning from war. As he sets out to run across America to raise awareness and "to find goodness in himself", he meets a therapist, Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen. Barbara started a non profit to work with veterans to help them heal by sharing their stories and ‘stop suffering in silence’. As she works with Brendan and thousands of veterans across the country, she comes to the realization that she needs share her own story. “ I kept asking them to share their stories and I realized I am hiding my own. We all need to tell our stories and break down the stigma which faces one in five Americans who suffer from mental health issues.” Barbara’s mother had a psychotic break when Barbara was a young girl and she has not seen her mother in 40 years. Not only does Barbara share her story publically for the first time, she begins a search for her mother who is lost on the streets of America. Our cameras are present over the course of two years of filming Brendan’s run across the country and Barbara’s dramatic discovery.

Ultimately this is a film about trust…the trust we put in one another so we can feel safe to tell our stories. Brendan and Barbara inspire others in the film to tell their deeply personal stories, including stories about the loss of loved ones to suicide and the shame and guilt which often haunts those left behind. The film’s purpose is simple and direct: to serve as a conversation starter for millions of people to change the culture around mental health and mental illness.

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Together, Brendan and Barbara's stories set a courageous example of how we can start to change the conversation in this country about PTS and mental health.

Brendan's Story

Brendan O’Toole served in the United States Marine Corps from 2008-20012.  During his time in the military, O’Toole completed two successful deployments.  His first tour was in response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. In 2011, O’Toole was deployed to Afghanistan with Marine Air Support Squadron 1. Upon arrival, he was assigned to Regimental Combat team 6. Stationed in the western part of the Helmand Province, outside the city of Delaram, O’Toole was responsible for all ground communication efforts of the Direct Air Support Center’s area of operation. Read More...

Barbara's Story

I am the daughter of a WWII veteran and a mother who was mentally ill. My father saw combat in the Pacific and was injured in battle. He never talked about his injuries nor did he speak about the brutality of war. Like many veterans of WWII, my dad came home with what was then called "combat stress" - though he never talked about that either. His invisible injuries were only apparent to me when he was under extreme stress. At those times, it was like a switch was flipped and I became afraid of the man who I otherwise dearly loved and respected. Read More...

PBS Broadcast and Outreach

This one hour documentary will be shown on PBS starting in the Fall of 2017. The presenting station is Oregon Public Broadcasting, one of the strongest stations in the system. To increase impact, the film will be part of a collective effort called the Campaign to Change Direction. Over 350 partners including major U.S. corporations and non profit organizations have joined the Campaign to Change Direction. They will actively work with more than 300 public television stations to hold community screenings throughout the country. The film is designed to be a conversation starter for discussions which will follow each screening.

Mental health today is cancer of the 1950’s and 60’s, HIV/AIDS of the 1980’s and 90’s. No one wants to talk about it, but our culture is slowly starting to change. Movies like Silver Linings Playbook and Love and Mercy have brought this issue into the main stream. Because of a shift in understanding of mental health conditions and mental illness needs, major changes are being proposed in health policy and the delivery of mental health care. More and more businesses are recognizing the critical link between psychological health and physical health which can lead to better well being among their employees. Into the Light will help carry the message forward through a PBS broadcast and an outreach program capable of reaching millions of Americans.

About The Director

I’ve written, produced and directed more than 50 documentaries, most of them for distribution on television networks. PBS, Discovery, A & E, HBO, ABC, MSNBC and more. See my web site for a complete list and more on my background, www.stuartproductions.com. While it’s great to reach millions of viewers on network television to educate the general public, I get really excited when I can reach people more directly via an extended outreach campaign. Like most documentary filmmakers I know, I like to see people get together, watch a film and take action. That’s why I’m so excited to make a film which is designed to jump start a national campaign. Read More...