A Conversation about Mental Health with Oryx Cohen

May 6, 2016

May is Mental Health Month and what a better way to kick it off than with a grass roots global release of Healing Voices Documentary!

The producers of “Healing Voices” – a new social action documentary about mental health released the film via community screening partners in a coordinated global event. The movie will screened in more than 130 locations across the US, Canada, UK, New Zealand, and Australia on and around April 29th as part of the movie’s “ONE NIGHT, ONE VOICE” grass roots release.

Produced, Written and Directed by PJ Moynihan of Digital Eyes Film (Northampton, MA), “Healing Voices” explores the experience commonly labeled as ‘psychosis’ through the stories of real-life individuals, and asks the question: What are we talking about when we talk about ‘mental illness’?

This character-driven documentary follows three people over nearly five years: Jen, Dan and Oryx. Oryx tells his story in a way that invites the audience to come along for the ride. Oryx is also the CEO of the National Empowerment Center Headquartered in Lawrence MA. Below is Katherine Blakeslee’s interview with Oryx.

A conversation about Mental Health with Oryx Cohen, Chief Operating Officer of the National Empowerment Center

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. That’s why I chatted with Oryx Cohen, CEO of the National Empowerment Center, about changing the conversation on Mental Health. Recently, he took the spotlight at the Boston International Film Festival for the documentary Healing Voices, as the film’s Co-Producer. The film explores "mental illness” from the personal journeys of three individuals, including Cohen, to challenge us to rethink and reframe how we think about “mental illness" and spread a message of hope.

When I spoke to Mr. Cohen, I wanted to hear more about what can be done to change the conversation on mental health. When Cohen was diagnosed with "Bipolar Disorder," he said, “It felt like being thrown out of the human race for being defective.” There is a lot of misunderstanding in our society about "mental illness." Fortunately he had an incredible support network, but he recognizes not everyone does. Cohen was able to reclaim and rename his experience to transform it into a personal growth opportunity and eventually go on to lead several organizations on mental health.

His call to action is this: we need to shift the mental health system to recognize the environment’s part to play, including our own, in this conversation on mental health. “It’s much more about your zip code than your genetic code,” said Cohen. It is important for everyone to have housing, meaningful work and relationships.

Cohen said to view mental health on a continuum and recognize we are all human beings. This “us” and “them” complex is not helping everyone stand together. There are plenty of resources available to help provide support for those going through a difficult time. The National Empowerment Center offers Emotional CPR to assist individuals going through a crisis.

Together we can be a force of change. People can recover from times of emotional distress and "mental illness." It is important for everyone to realize we can be the catalyst for change by rallying together to share a message of hope and recovery.


National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day (Awareness Day) 2016 is Thursday, May 5: https://www.samhsa.gov/childrens-awareness-day/past-events/2016

National Empowerment Center
599 Canal Street, Lawrence, MA 01840.
Toll-free: 800-769-3728
Outside US: 978-685-1494
Local calls: 978-685-1494

This year’s theme for Mental Health Month is - Life with a Mental Illness - and will call on individuals to share what life with a mental illness feels like for them in words, pictures and video by tagging their social media posts with #mentalillnessfeelslike