Student featured in nationally televised documentary

Kari Broadway, a Northwestern College senior, is being featured in a documentary on mental illness. The hour-long show produced by Mennonite Media, Shadow Voices: Finding Hope in Mental Illness, is airing nationwide on ABC affiliates through February.

KCAU in Sioux City will air the show on Sunday, Jan. 15, from 1 to 2 p.m. Check the complete listing at

Growing up in New Sharon, Iowa, Broadway tried to suffocate herself under pillows, hoping someone would notice something was wrong. She struggled with anorexia as a teenager and cut and burned herself to inflict more pain.

As a student at Northwestern in the late 1990s, she was diagnosed with major depression and borderline personality disorder and needed to be hospitalized a few times. She eventually dropped out of college and was a client at Hope Haven’s Intensive Psychiatric Rehabilitation program in Rock Valley, Iowa, for a number of years.

Today, Broadway has resumed her studies at Northwestern, adding a biology-health professions major to her music major and psychology minor with a goal of going on to medical school and becoming a psychiatrist. She still receives regular treatment for depression, including electro convulsive therapy and medication, but her past history indicates that if she does experience more acute episodes, Broadway will recuperate, regroup and go on.

“School is going well,” she says. “I feel like I’m able to apply myself in ways I couldn’t before. My brain feels like it can focus and can get things done.”

Broadway was interviewed for Shadow Voices last April when the camera crew was at Hope Haven in Rock Valley. She says she’s excited about the program’s potential to educate people about mental illness.

“I hope it allows people to see the reality of mental illness as an illness and how we can be more accepting of people with mental illness,” she says. “We deal with people who have diabetes and cancer every day but we don’t deal with people with mental illness in as positive a light. I hope the show helps people better understand their family members, friends and co-workers.”

Kari wrote about her personal journey in the May 2005 issue of The Church Herald, the monthly magazine of the Reformed Church in America, and has spoken about it to college classes and high school youth groups.

Shadow Voices features Rosalynn Carter, former first lady of the U.S. and longtime advocate on mental illness issues, and Dr. David Satcher, former surgeon general. In addition to Broadway, other Iowa interviewees include two individuals who have been aided through the Intensive Psychiatric Rehabilitation program at Hope Haven and Ev Bussema, who at the time of taping was manager of that program.

The documentary covers the involvement of conscientious objectors in mental hospitals during World War II, the stigma and isolation still experienced today, the use of prisons as de facto mental institutions, health insurance issues, today’s focus on recovery and rehabilitation, and responses of faith communities.

In any given year, about five to seven percent of adults have a serious mental illness. Approximately 35 percent of all persons will experience a diagnosed brain disorder sometime during their life, with mental illnesses causing the most disability among all illnesses in the U.S., Canada and Western Europe, according to the 2003 U.S. President’s Commission on Mental Health Report.

Burton Buller, producer for the program and director of Mennonite Media, says, “We want to challenge society to rethink the stigma that continues to follow diseases of the brain. We want the viewer to come away saying, ‘I will never be able to look at or think about mental illness in the same way again.’”

The program was produced for the “Vision and Values” series for ABC-TV by Mennonite Media in partnership with the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission and the Communications Commission of National Council of Churches.

The documentary Mennonite Media produced last year, Fierce Goodbye: Living in the Shadow of Suicide, won a Gold Special Jury Award at the WorldFest-Houston Film Festival, among other awards.

Mennonite Media, based in Harrisonburg, Va., is the outreach media department of Mennonite Mission Network, the mission agency of Mennonite Church USA.