By Art Holliday
ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - In the beginning there was no film; just an idea about a 200 mile walk on the Katy Trail by Mark Norwine to raise awareness and start conversations with teenagers about mental illness. "If you walk across the state, will people be interested? Obviously they have."
Eric Norwine, a recent film school graduate from USC, believed making a film about the walk could reach kids who are struggling.
"It's not weakness to get help, said Eric. "In many ways it's strength, and that's kind of the message we're trying to get out there."
The name of the movie is Walking Man. The subtitle No One Does It Alone could refer to the people who donated money to the film.
"We had 223 people donate $22,000 in 30 days," said Eric Norwine. Or it could refer to a father and son teaming up to make a movie about the mental illness they share: bipolar disorder.
"I ended up in the hospital twice and they diagnosed me as bipolar and once I started taking those medications for bipolar, everything changed," said Mark Norwine, whose mental illness was misdiagnosed as depression for more than 30 years. "If you go untreated you just don't function well. You have times when you function very well and you have other times you're not functioning at all."
Mark Norwine is a bullying prevention coordinator for CHADS Coalition, an organization that tries to prevent adolescent bullying, depression and suicide. Ending the stigma of mental illness is part of his motivation.
Eric Norwine was diagnosed as bi-polar as a teenager. He remembers struggling to find the words to describe his daily mood swings to his doctor.
"I feel like I wake up every morning and I get up and I get on a plane and I don't know where I'm going to land. Sometimes I land in the middle of a war zone and sometimes I land in Hawaii in paradise. And I'm not flying the plane," he said.
As the film crew travels to Missouri high schools, Mark and Eric sense they're on the right track. At every school when the Norwine's presentation is finished, students try to have private conversations with the Norwines.
"The reason they're asking it in private is because it's personal," said Eric Norwine. "That tells me, one, these kids are brave to do that, and two, they're at a point in their life where it's a point of desperation because they're talking to a stranger about these things and they want answers. My hope is that these kids recognize that this is something they're allowed to get answers to."
"Sixty million Americans have a mental illness. Thirty million of them happen before the age of 14," said Mark Norwine, "so we have kids out there that need to ask all these questions. If we don't ask these questions as adults, then they assume it's not okay to ask the questions as kids."
Photography for the film ends this weekend when Norwine concludes his 200 mile Katy Trail walk at Creve Coeur Park Saturday afternoon.