Whitby mental health advocate subject of documentary premiering September 15


Published September 1, 2023 at 12:13 pm

The accolades keep rolling in for Whitby mental health advocate Mike Shoreman, who is the subject of a documentary – When Hope Breaks Through – premiering at the annual CommFilm Festival at Toronto’s St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts September 15.

September is Suicide Prevention Month and the timing of the release of the documentary is no coincidence, with suicide prevention and mental health – especially in young people – the focus of much of Shoreman’s speaking engagements as the former paddleboarder travels across North America talking to organizations about corporate wellness and resilience.

“Mental health is the leading cause of health related death for young Canadians and a big part of that is that is because we still aren’t where we need to be in terms of stigma and shame,” Shoreman said last year after successfully crossing all five Great Lakes to raise funds and awareness for mental health issues. “I think Canadians look at their own kids and think ‘my kids are okay, so everyone’s kids are okay.’ Unfortunately, that’s not the case and mental health organizations are struggling to keep up with increases in access to services they provide.”

In 2018 Shoreman, who was a paddleboard coach at the time, was diagnosed with a neurological condition that left him paralyzed, with vertigo, hearing and vision loss, ultimately leading to depression and a mental health breakdown.

Told he would never walk again, let alone get on a paddleboard, Shoreman overcame his fears and became the first person with a disability to cross all five Great Lakes on a paddleboarder last year.

“It feels incredible and I am so grateful to the amazing Canadians who have supported me and to young Canadians who are struggling,” he told inDurham after the final crossing of Lake Ontario. “It’s been a mental health journey going through these Great Lakes and although I felt very alone at times, I got through again and am now on the other side.”

The documentary, directed by Matthew Wagner, explores the current state of the mental health crisis in Canada and the rest of the world and our relationship with our own mental health. The film is also about the five epic crossings encompassing over 300 kilometres of open water paddling accomplished by Shoreman and his team. Together, the film declares, these strangers come together and form an “inseparable bond” as they faced and conquered obstacles from boats breaking down to medical emergencies, hallucinations and everything in between.

“Mental health affects millions of Canadians and people globally every day,” Shoreman noted. “With mental health being the most underfunded system in all of health care, it is critical that the organizations that provide programs and services receive continued support.”

Dr. Allison Crawford, a psychiatrist at CAMH and chief medical officer of Talk Suicide Canada, and #SickNotWeak founder Michael Landsberg provide commentary and analysis, with Vicki Keith, Hazel McCallion and Steve Paikin also featured.

With the nation facing a global mental health crisis – one in three Canadians will experience mental illness during their lifetime – the film follows Shoreman’s journey in leading one of the largest mental health fundraising and awareness campaigns in Canada and the U.S.

“My hope is that as people watch this film, they are inspired by this deeply personal story of overcoming obstacles, dreaming big and accomplishing great things for a great cause – mental health,” said Wagner. “Everyone is on their own mental health journey, and this film encourages us, through the lens of one man’s journey, to be open and honest about our struggles and to begin a conversation about mental health.”

While making some independent traction in the North American film festival scene this fall, Canamedia Partners acquired When Hope Breaks Through for distribution in Canadian, U.S., European and Asian markets for 2024. SurvivorNetTV (USA), a streaming network for people living with chronic disease and cancer, purchased the rights in August to the documentary for VOD streaming.

Shoreman with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Shoreman, an ambassador for youth mental health organization, Jack.org, has raised more than $100,000 in the past few years for young people in crisis. The Mood Disorders Society of Canada named him as the 2022 recipient of the Marg Starzynski Mental Health Leadership Award; he was the International Stand-Up Paddle Boarding Man of the Year two years running in 2020 and 2021; and he and his crew were honoured by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this spring.

To buy tickets for the documentary’s screening, visit https://am.ticketmaster.com/tolive/commffest2023. The entire cast and crew will be in attendance for a Q&A immediately following the film.

To see the trailer, check out https://www.whenhopebreaksthrough.com/home


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