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J-School grad's film explores alternative methods of mental health crisis response

By: Ben Shelley
May 23, 2022
Luke Galati on site directing the short documentary.

School of Journalism alum Luke Galati will be premiering his new film When We Reach Out, Who Should Respond? at the Get Reel Mental Health Film Festival in June. 

Galati was selected as one of four Get Reel Scholarship Recipients from Stella’s Place, which provides free mental health services for young adults who are between 16 and 29 years old. His film explores the topic of who should be the first responders to someone experiencing a mental health crisis. Galati spent two years working on the film, as part of his Masters program in Documentary Media at Toronto Metropolitan University.

“This film started from one of my own personal experiences when I had been in a mental health crisis and I kind of realized there was something very wrong with the system of having police officers respond to mental health crisis calls,” said Galati.

Galati spoke to Denise Campbell for the film, who was behind Toronto’s Community Crisis Support Service, a pilot project introducing alternative measures of first response. The film also aimed to speak to community members who have been affected by the policy of police acting as first responders for mental health crises, as well as experts. Former Toronto Mayor John Sewell and former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci were two more of the figures interviewed for the film. 

As a result of the pilot program, Galati says he feels more optimistic about a shift to alternative methods of first response for people in mental health crises.

“It does show that change is possible and that more change could happen and should happen, but it’s a first step and hopefully will be a policy that saves lives.”

Galati wants to be a positive voice in the area of disability and mental health, noting that the topics are underrepresented. He hopes to tell more stories related to mental health and disability going forward.

“A mental health crisis can happen to anyone and [the film] also conveys the message that talking about it doesn’t make you weak, it just makes you human,” said Galati. “We all have challenges and when we’re at a vulnerable state or at our lowest, we all deserve care, compassion and, at the end of the day, love.”

When We Reach Out, Who Should Respond? can be seen at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on June 6, as part of the Get Reel Mental Health Film Festival.

There will also be a prior showing at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema on June 2, as part of the DocNow Film Festival, which is open to the public for free. 

Luke Galati looks out the window of a bus in this black and white photo.