In honor of Disability Pride, Millersville University screened the documentary “The Wisdom of Trauma,” featuring Gabor Maté, on campus. / PHOTO COURTESY OF THE WISDOM OF TRAUMA MEDIA KIT

Morgan Huber
Opinion Editor

Millersville University’s Department of Communication & Theater, in association with the Department of Psychology and the ADAPT Club, began the annual Disability Pride Film Festival this past Wednesday, starting off with a screening of the documentary “The Wisdom of Trauma.” 

The 2021 documentary, directed by Maurizio and Zaya Benazzo, follows Hungarian-Canadian physician Gabor Maté as he discusses and navigates the effects of trauma, how it is processed by those who experienced it, and how to deal with and overcome negative experiences in one’s life. A Jewish man born and raised in Hungary during the Holocaust, Maté immigrated with his family to the Vancouver area as a child. Later becoming a doctor as an adult, he worked primarily in family practice in eastern Vancouver, encountering numerous drug addicts and homeless residents in the city. Inspired by his work, he delved into his passion for helping others understand and deal with their traumatic experiences. 

Through Maté’s expertise and guidance, viewers are given a deeper understanding of mental health and disabilities, along with their interconnectedness with trauma. Maté talks with a wide variety of people, ranging from prisoners to recovering addicts, homeless individuals, and survivors of domestic violence and abuse. The film was also created in collaboration with the Prison Compassion Project, and so features interviews and footage of prisoners, specifically detailing their childhood and how it may have affected their decisions and situations later in life. Within the context of homelessness, addiction, and crime, Maté paints a detailed picture of how pain and physical and mental suffering in one’s life can lead to years and even generations of further dysfunction if left untreated.

This eye-opening documentary not only exposes viewers to the debilitating impact of trauma, but also how it can have an extreme impact on people’s behavior, psyche, and lifestyles, both on an individual and systemic level. Maté’s expertly crafted narrative proves tragic and conceptually captivating. 

“The Wisdom of Trauma” does not hesitate to reach the dark corners of society, and in doing so provides empathy and understanding for the struggles that people face in the wake of traumatic experiences. Maté also provides both his interview subjects and his viewers at home with a hopeful insight into how to deal with the pain of one’s past, and in doing so, create for oneself a brighter future. 

This film, providing a glimpse into the lives of those affected by trauma, and how such a phenomenon can truly manifest as a disability, proves to be a moving and sensational beginning to Disability Pride and opens discussions on campus.

The screening was accompanied by faculty Ari Camel and Nadine Garner of the Center for Health Education and Promotion and the university’s Trauma Institute, respectively, to answer questions and provide commentary at the end of the film. In addition, Kendra Saunders of Millersville University Counseling Services was also present to provide support and facilitate conversation, due to the documentary’s sensitive nature. 

“The Wisdom of Trauma” is not currently available on any streaming services, but can be viewed on the documentary’s official website by donation.

In honor of Millersville University’s Disability Pride, films regarding various topics of mental and physical disabilities and differences will continue to be screened on campus throughout the semester. A screening of “Certain Proof,” a documentary chronicling the lives of children with cerebral palsy, will be shown on Wednesday, March 16, at 5:30 p.m. in Meyers Auditorium, followed by Disability Pride Day on April 4, which will conclude a showing of “Then Barbara Met Alan,” an upcoming BBC biopic about fighting for disability rights in 1990s Britain, at 6:30 PM in Biemesderfer Concert Hall, concluding with a panel held by disability rights activist Alan Holdsworth. 

For more information regarding Disability Pride, ADAPT, and other related activities on campus, readers are encouraged to reach out to the ADAPT club at muadapt@gmail.com, or contact communications professor Dr. Jessica Hughes at jessica.hughes@millersville.edu .