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Why I Fight, or Team Wristband

Detail from portrait by Rives Wiley.

“Why I Fight, or Team Wristband,” a short film adaptation of the 2019 Michigan Quarterly Review story by James Munro Leaf, dramatizes the perils of being defined by a mental illness and the complex and varied reactions of patients in the psychiatric system. It probes the presumption of labels and the complex dynamics of power. Directed, edited and adapted by Andy Kirshner and Gillian Eaton, the film features a diverse cast and crew of faculty and students from U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance and U-M College of Literature, Science and the Arts, including Professor Malcolm Tulip. Read Malcolm Tulip's interview with Michigan Quarterly Review about Why I Fight.

Through collaboration with the U-M Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Program and other university units, the film will premiere virtually, January 14th, 2022 at 7:00 p.m. A panel on mental illness and the arts will expand on themes in “Why I Fight, or Team Wristband” and invite conversation with audience members. The panel will include individuals who live with mental illness; U-M faculty experts in related fields; and practitioners in the arts. The discussion will also explore the role of creativity in healing and mental wellness. Dr. Melvin McInnis, Director of the Prechter Program, and other U-M mental health experts, will moderate the panel.

This event is free but registration is required. This event will be streamed via Youtube. You will receive a link to the event via email Friday, January 14.

This showing is one-night only. Dates of future showings of the film will be shared on this webpage for anyone interested in watching the film after the premiere.


Check out this short video exploring mental health obstacles that U-M students face with the healing power of the arts, created in 2019 by Sophia Liu and Kelly Zhu under the guidance of Liz Goodenough:


Jacob Appel

Jacob Appel

Jacob M. Appel is currently an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, where he is Director of Ethics Education in Psychiatry, and an attending physician at Mount Sinai Hospital, Beth Israel Hospital, and St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. At Mount Sinai, he designed and teaches the ethics curriculum for the first and second year medical students, lectures in the psychiatric clerkship, and runs the ethics courses for the psychiatry residents. He also established and supervises a creative writing elective for the medical students. He serves on the medical school’s admissions committee, grievance committee and institutional review board. Jacob is also the author of four literary novels including Millard Salter's Last Day (Simon & Schuster/Gallery, 2017), nine short story collections, an essay collection, a cozy mystery, a thriller and a volume of poems. Prior to joining the faculty at Mount Sinai, Jacob taught most recently at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, at the Gotham Writers’ Workshop in New York City, and at Yeshiva College, where he was the writer-in-residence. He was honored with Brown’s Undergraduate Council of Students Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2003 and teaching awards from the graduating residents in psychiatry at Beth Israel Hospital in 2017 and Mount Sinai Hospital in 2018. He formerly held academic appointments at Pace University, Hunter College, William Paterson University, Manhattan College, Columbia University and New York University. Jacob holds a B.A. and an M.A. from Brown, an M.S. in bioethics from Albany Medical College, an M.A. and an M.Phil. from Columbia, an M.D. from Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, an M.F.A. from N.Y.U. and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He also publishes in the field of bioethics and contributes regularly to such publications as the Journal of Clinical Ethics, the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, the Hastings Center Report and the Bulletin of the History of Medicine.  His essays on the nexus of law and medicine have appeared in The New York TimesNew York PostNew York Daily NewsThe Chicago TribuneSan Francisco ChronicleDetroit Free PressOrlando SentinelThe Providence Journal and many regional newspapers.

Nat Butler

Nat Butler

Nat Butler is retired after working for 12 years as a manager in the Social Service Department of Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston, and subsequently for 23 years in the MassHealth (Medicaid) program for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as a manager of long term care services. Earlier in his work life, he was a mental health worker for one year at McLean Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. He has a masters degree in business administration and another masters degree in social work.

Nat Butler is a gay man. Until 1973, homosexuality was considered a psychiatric disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. Nat is a recovering alcoholic (since 1998). Alcoholism is sometimes still considered to be a moral failing, rather than a treatable illness. Nat’s father was afflicted by alcoholism, and one of his brothers died of alcoholism. Another of Nat’s brothers – a diagnosed schizophrenic – was a successful, recovering alcoholic. Nat was treated for depression, with psychotherapy, over the course of 10 years. “No matter what labels we may earn or be given in life, we are each a human being who enjoys being treated as an individual person rather than a diagnosis. Determining a diagnosis should never be a substitute for caring for the individual.”

Gillian Eaton

Gillian Eaton

Gillian Eaton was born in Wales and is an award-winning actress, writer and director with credits on both sides of the Atlantic. Her previous theatre work includes London’s West End, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Mark Taper Forum and Ahmanson Theatres in Los Angeles and many regional theatres. She has appeared in numerous stage plays, TV shows and films in the US and the UK and has written for the cinema and the stage. Gillian was vice-president of arts and humanities for the Detroit YMCA group, has also been the guest theatre artist for numerous Michigan organizations including the Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP), Flint Youth Theatre, the Detroit Zoo, EMU and the Detroit Historical Museum. She taught in the School of Music Theatre and Dance at the University of Michigan for 10 years and her directing work for the University includes GOOD KIDS, WILD HONEY, in the Walgreen, PETER & THE STARCATCHER and THE GRAPES OF WRATH at the Power Center, LOVE & INFORMATION, AS YOU LIKE IT, and HAY FEVER at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre.

Andy Kirshner

Andy Kirshner

Andy Kirshner uses film, theatre, music, and scholarship to explore complex social, political, and historical questions. A composer, writer, director, singer, and actor, his interdisciplinary body of work ranges from film, to opera, to experimental music-theatre, to performance art. Andy’s unique, hybrid creations have been supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Michigan Council on the Arts and Cultural Affairs, and the U.S. Department of Education. Liberty’s Secret, his musical-comedy feature film and satire of American politics, toured film festivals in the U.S. and Germany, has been translated into Portuguese, German, and Thai, and is available on several streaming channels internationally. His recently completed docu-fiction film, 10 Questions for Henry Ford, premiered at the Ojai Film Festival in November, 2021. He is an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan, the first faculty member ever to be jointly appointed by the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, and the Stamps School of Art and Design. Kirshner holds a doctorate from the University of Michigan in Music Composition, where his principal teacher was William Bolcolm.

Andrew Shu

Andrew Shu

Andrew is a mental health services consumer and a Master of Social Work Graduate at the University of Michigan. Andrew’s passion for mental health first started in high school when he realized that he was not going to be the class valedictorian, so he tried to make his mark on the school in a different way. In the tumultuous time of the teenage years, Andrew served as the bedrock for his friends by becoming their de facto counselor and helping them through relationship issues, academic disappointments, and parental pressure. After transferring from community college to UC Berkeley, Andrew became lost and disillusioned about society due to his burgeoning drug use. This led to a full-on mental health crisis where he was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. It took years for Andrew to reclaim his life and continue where he left off. Without the support of his family, friends, mental health community, and substance-free community, Andrew’s believes that his recovery would not have been possible. Andrew is thankful for everyone who helped him throughout his journey and he will continue to fight for a better tomorrow.


Why I Fight events are for those who want to 

  • ask questions about research and treatments for mental illness
  • explore the relationship between mental illness and the impact of the arts in healing
  • support family members, friends, and students with mental illness
  • prevent suicide among young adults
  • shift the legal system towards more humane interventions

Our partners are:

  • Residential College
  • School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD)
  • Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Program
  • Michigan Quarterly Review

Sponsors contributing $1,000 or more are (as of 12/03/21):

  • Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT)
  • College of Literature, Science and the Arts (LSA) Dean's Office
  • Department of Psychology, LSA
  • Division of Student Life
  • Honors Program, LSA
  • MCubed
  • Michigan Medicine
  • Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (ODEI)
  • Office of the Associate Dean for Social Sciences, LSA
  • Office of the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education, LSA
  • Rackham Graduate School
  • Sally and Ian Bund
  • Sarah and Sandy Wiener
  • School of Social Work
  • Stephanie Wenner Warburg
  • U-M Office of Research (UMOR)

Sponsors contributing up to $1,000 are (as of 3/6/20):

  • ArtsEngine
  • David and Karen Ufer
  • English Language Institute (ELI), LSA
  • Global Scholars Program (GSP), LSA
  • Health Sciences Scholars Program, LSA
  • Institute for the Humanities
  • Lloyd Scholars for Writing and the Arts, LSA
  • Nathaniel G. Butler
  • School of Nursing
  • University Housing