"Visions of Warriors" Offers Visions of Hope for Veterans Battling Mental Illness

William James College Hosts Virtual Film Screening of Veterans Mental Health Film “Visions of Warriors,” and Q&A Featuring Film Director, Student Veterans and Veteran Panelists

November 02, 2020

Update (11/16/20): Thank you to all who attended this event. WJC community members, please contact the MVP program for film access past this date. 

“Visions of Warriors” is a film that follows four veterans who are battling mental health issues using photography as a powerful new weapon in their fight. The William James College Military Veterans Psychology (MVP) emphasis is hosting a two part event which includes a virtual screening of the film (the film is available November 2 through November 15 to registered participants via a password protected link) and a Q&A featuring the film’s director, and William James College student, faculty and alumni veterans which will be held via Zoom on Tuesday, November 10, at Noon.

MVP leadership selected Visions of Warriors because the film offers “a realistic look into veterans lives and what they go through,” said Dr. Jenny D’Olympia, interim director of the MVP and TVTV programs. D’Olympia, an Air Force veteran, said she hopes that through the film and discussion participants see the value of a multidisciplinary approach to mental health treatment. It also offers an example of the ways in which a “non-clinical” approach can bring meaning into people’s lives.

“While photography is the final connecting approach in this film, I think any medium that helps veterans connect with each other and helps them bring words to their experiences brings value to their lives and gives them meaning,” D’Olympia said. “Also, being able to share these meaningful experiences offers an opportunity for influence. Influence and connection are vital.”

Visions of Warriors is a feature length documentary by Humanist Films that tells the story of four veterans, from the Vietnam era to the Iraq War, their struggle to regain mental wellbeing and battle PTSD, and the healing they found through photography while participating in the Veteran Photo Recovery Project at the VA Menlo Park, which was founded by Nurse Practitioner Susan Quaglietti.

The film’s Director Ming Lai wrote “Hope Is What Empowers the Veteran Photo Recovery Project,” in a post for Medium.com that offers an inside look at the making of the documentary.

“Through [Quaglietti] and her team, as well as all of the veterans, I was able to learn a lot about moral injury, PTSD, MST, and other mental illnesses,” Lai wrote. “I had already done extensive research on PTSD while developing my narrative feature film about a war photographer. But diving deeper into this vast subject of mental illness gave me even greater understanding.”

William James College is home to two innovative Military Psychology training programs. The Military and Veteran Psychology (MVP) emphasis is a coordinated array of efforts designed to train culturally-competent mental health professionals – veterans and civilians alike – to provide services to military service members, veterans, and their families. The program also provides a supportive community on campus for student veterans, family, and friends of military personnel, and for those interested in working with veterans and military families. MVP’s signature program Train Vets to Treat Vets® (TVTV) is specifically for veterans and provides a unique training opportunity designed to prepare them to work with fellow veterans.

Colonel (Ret.) Corey A. New, U.S. Army, a student in the College’s Graduate Certificate in Executive Coaching program and a panelist for the event noted that recent studies focusing on veteran’s well-being that focused on employer perceptions and societal public views, find that misperceptions about veterans continue to exist and may impede veterans’ transitions back into the civilian world. 

“My personal post-retirement transition and engagement with business leaders resonates with these misperceptions,” New said. “Education, outreach and programming opportunities like this are exactly what needs to happen to overcome these misperceptions.”

The film, D’Olympia said, not only brings attention to the mental health needs but also the importance of the community support needed to help with readjustment and treatment.

Panelists for the Q& A discussion are: Film Producer, Writer and Director Ming Lai; Moderator, Dr. Jenny D’Olympia (interim director of the MVP and TVTV programs and director of the College’s online master of arts in psychology program); Colonel (Ret.) Corey A. New, U.S. Army (student, Graduate Certificate in Executive Coaching); Jessica Price (Clinical Psychology PsyD student, dual concentrating in Military & Veteran Psychology (MVP) and Forensic Psychology); Mary Grabowski, William James College alumna and Coast Guard Veteran; and Marc Abelard, decorated Marine Corps Combat Veteran; director, Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Human Services; director, Behavioral Health Service Corps).

Lai is a filmmaker and photographer and Founder/CEO of Humanist Films, a film and photography production company based in Los Angeles. His narrative and documentary films explore the human condition, addressing subjects like war, illegal immigration, art education, and mental illness. His photography similarly tries to capture the human spirit, from breathtaking architecture to haunting internment camps.