That work began with a two-week, 200-mile walk along the Katy Trail in Missouri, with stops at schools, hospitals and other venues along the way to share his story with others. Norwine was accompanied by his son, Eric, who was also diagnosed as bipolar at age 16, along with a film crew to document the trip.
Mark and Eric Norwine will visit the East Tennessee State University campus on Tuesday, Dec. 1, to present two screenings of “Walking Man,” the award-winning documentary film that resulted from that journey, and to engage in discussions with the audiences.
A morning showing will be for students in grades 8-12 at University School, followed by a free public screening at 6 p.m. in the D.P. Culp University Center’s Martha Street Culp Auditorium. This event is co-sponsored by University School, the College of Nursing and the Department of Counseling and Human Services in the Clemmer College of Education at ETSU.
“The average person tells three to four lies a day,” Mark Norwine wrote in his journal a week before his walk, which he was inspired to undertake when one Missouri high school lost three students to suicide within a seven-week period. “The most common lie our children tell us is ‘I’m okay,’ when asked how they are doing. Not being okay is (perceived as) the same as saying you are weak. Those who struggled as children with mental illness and kept the secret (are) afraid of being seen as different and the subsequent isolation. I’ve been on a similar journey since the age of 10.”
The Norwines were amazed by the responses they received every time Mark gave his talk along the way. They were asked serious, thought-provoking questions during question-and-answer sessions, and many young people stayed afterward to ask personal questions or to share their own stories.
“These kids knew, potentially for the first time, that they weren’t alone,” Eric wrote. “They knew they weren’t alone because an adult finally told them it was okay to ask the questions they so badly needed answered. More importantly, they knew they weren’t alone because they saw their classmates asking the same questions they’d wanted to ask for so long.”
“Walking Man” went on to win the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the 2014 St. Louis International Film Festival and Best Documentary at the Palm Beach International Film Festival. It was also an Official Selection of the Moving Images Film Festival.
“Many of us have been touched by this illness,” said Dr. Troy Knechtel, director of University School at ETSU. “It may be a family member, a close friend or a colleague, or it may be something we are struggling with ourselves. And the longer that silence reigns, the longer people suffer the effects of not only the illness but the shame of the stigma placed on it. The good news is we can make a difference.”
Counselors will be available at both the University School and public screenings of “Walking Man” to provide assistance to those who need help.
To learn more about “Walking Man,” visit www.NoOneDoesItAlone.com.
For more information, call University School at 423-439-4271. For disability accommodations, call the ETSU Office of Disability Services at 423-439-8346.