Synopsis: A suicide attempt left 16-year-old varsity cheerleader, Emma Benoit, paralyzed, but propelled her on a mission to use her painful experience to help others find hope, and shine more light on the fact that 20 young people die every day by suicide in the United States. My Ascension is a feature length documentary that chronicles Emma’s inspiring journey and quest to walk again, as she works to bring Hope Squad, a school-based suicide prevention program, to Louisiana. The film also highlights the stories of two remarkable young people who tragically did not survive their attempts, and we learn first-hand from their families, friends, school officials and suicide prevention experts about the devastating effects of suicide and what can be done to prevent it.
I am uniquely positioned to tell this story due to my personal experience living with a mental health illness and suicidal thoughts, which began when I was in my early twenties while working in the film industry in Hollywood. With my dream of working in film shattered I began working in the mental health field in 2004. I have worked nationally in the field of youth mental health for the last 12 years and still do so today. In this work I have worked with many young people who were suicidal, many of which who have attempted suicide. This experience gives me great insight into making a film that is authentic and will be extremely beneficial in preventing suicides and helping young people find hope and purpose.
In my work in mental health and in directing and producing my previous film, Suicide The Ripple Effect, I have developed great working relationships with some of the leading suicide prevention and mental health professionals, organizations and advocates in the world. Suicide The Ripple Effect, was released in theaters in March 2018 via Gathr films and community licenses and has had over 600 screenings worldwide with over 100,000 attendees and has won numerous awards, and was released just released on VOD platforms on May 30, 2019. We have received numerous messages from people who have indicate how the film helped change and/or saved their lives and I am confident that My Ascension will build on this success and have an even bigger impact.
In terms of my film making experience, I started my film career in 1993 when I moved to Hollywood after college. I began working on a variety of projects including feature films Outbreak, starring Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Spacey, Cuba Gooding and Morgan Freeman, as well as Mirage, starring Sean Young and Edward James Almos. I also worked on numerous music videos, commercials and live shows for VH1 and MTV.
I later returned home to New Orleans to co-found the video production company Verge Entertainment where I produced and directed numerous film and video projects including the TV pilot “Tribe TV,” which received a regional Emmy Award; “Heroin the Real Deal,” a heroin prevention film featuring surviving members of the band Sublime and “Go Cat Go,” an EPK for music legend Carl Perkins.
My professional filmmaking career was diverted by my own mental health and substance abuse issues for nearly 20 years, but Since 2010 I have been combining these two passions and have produced, directed and edited numerous mental health related videos designed to educate and inspire by sharing messages of hope and recovery to broader audiences.
Greg Dicharry is the national youth empowerment director for Magellan Health, a filmmaker and a mental health advocate who in 2019 received Mental Health America’s top honor, the Clifford Beers Award for his work. In 2008, Greg developed Magellan’s MY LIFE program, which is one of the nation’s leading programs for youth who experience mental health, substance use and/or foster care- related challenges. Since establishing MY LIFE in Arizona, Greg has worked with communities in Pennsylvania, Florida, Louisiana, Nebraska and Wyoming to implement 20 additional MY LIFE programs, which have impacted thousands of youth participants.
In his spare time Greg produces and directs mental health related documentary films to reduce stigma and help others find recovery. He co-directed and produced the 2018 Award winning film Suicide the Ripple Effect, and he has recently completed a new documentary feature, My Ascension, which focuses on youth suicide prevention. The film received a 2020 Media Award from Mental Health America and will be released early summer of 2021.
Greg was introduced to the world of mental health while living in Hollywood pursuing his dream of working in the entertainment industry. It was there he experienced his first manic episode while directing a music video and was hospitalized and diagnosed with co-occurring bipolar and substance use disorders. He spent the next 10 years in and out of denial about his diagnosis, which resulted in over 10 forced hospitalizations, a one-month stay in Orleans Parish Prison’s psychiatric unit, two stays in drug rehabilitation and many hopeless depressive states.
In 2004 Greg became committed to recovery and completed a Certified Peer Support Training Program. Soon after was hired to oversee that same program and trained over 100 individuals to work as peer support specialist. He also started 12-step recovery groups at the Arizona State Mental Hospital Forensic Unit and at two juvenile detention centers in Arizona.
Greg and MY LIFE youth have made over 60 youth mental health related presentations to more than 7,000 people and have produced 25 MY Fest youth festivals in 5 states to reduce stigma and raise awareness about mental health and other issues facing youth.
Greg has also coordinated 12 MY LIFE Youth Day at State Capitol events in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Florida and Nebraska, which have given youth the opportunity advocate for mental health issues. MY LIFE events have attracted over 60,000 attendees and reached thousands more via social media and news coverage from Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC affiliates, and numerous major radio networks.
In recognition of his work, Greg was awarded Mental Health America’s top honor, the Clifford Beers Award in 2019, SAMHSA Voice Award for consumer/ peer leadership, the Howie the Harp Award for Advocacy in the Arts, National Council Reintegration Award for mentorship, National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health Appreciation Award and Federation of Families for Central Florida – Exceptional Leadership Award.