Meet New Day: Michelle Melles

A woman with medium blond hair with her daughter with long blond hair sitting in front of ocean waves

I am a Canadian-American filmmaker, producer, story-editor, and writer based in Toronto and have been creating social issue documentaries for over twenty years. I use multidimensional storytelling to transform our world. My film Drunk on Too Much Life (DOTML) does so by moving beyond medicalized and disease-centered thinking towards regenerative, holistic, and transformative mental health practices.

When our daughter Corrina was six years old, she began to worry about 'going crazy’ and described it as "being drunk on too much life" – a beautiful and poetic way to describe the intensely emotional and psychic experiences she would later experience. After her first ‘psychotic break’ when she was 21, our family knew no other way to conceptualize states of ‘madness’ except for what psychiatrists told us. DOTML is an intimate documentary that follows us and our 21-year-old daughter from locked-down psych wards and diagnostic labels towards expansive worlds of creativity, connection and greater meaning; this film is our search for a different story and language with which to understand hearing voices and seeing visions. Through DOTML we advocate for a new narrative of mental health that is grounded in lived experience, holistic recovery, community, creativity, and connection.

Many personal documentaries that explore issues surrounding mental health focus on the parent, sibling or the filmmaker who struggles with mental illness. These films, and the media that surrounds them, are usually enmeshed in the biomedical model of mental health, which is the dominant way we treat mental illness in Canada and the U.S.A.

Drunk on Too Much Life is unique in that its point of view is of a family’s journey towards healing, stepping outside of the asylum towards a more complex understanding of extreme psychic experiences such as hearing voices or seeing visions (often labeled as “psychosis”). The film is a kaleidoscopic journey toward healing and recovery, involving community, connection, and creativity. As a filmmaker and mother, I have never seen a personal documentary exploring mental health from the parents and daughter’s point of view – together and intertwined on their road to healing and greater understanding.

Watch the trailer and learn more about our journey in Drunk on Too Much Life.

You can also watch our film on Kanopy.

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