Coming up for air
Mental health, sensible gun regulation, and the challenges of high-stakes academics are themes in a new movie by co-writer Roger Rapoport, BA ’68. Coming Up for Air, about a troubled student-athlete, showcases Canham Natatorium and longtime U-M diving coach Dick Kimball. The story takes place at a fictional University; U-M has not endorsed and is not affiliated with the picture other than serving as one location. Rapoport regularly presents excerpted scenes with Q&As for families, athletes, educators, and mental health experts. The entire film will be available Sept. 20 through myCinema, which enables theater owners to access and present specialty content. (All photos by Eric Bronson, Michigan Photography.)
Many student-athletes experience mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, but they often are reluctant to seek help. At the University of Michigan, the Athletes Connected Initiative helps eliminate the stigma of mental illness. The University is not affiliated with Rapoport’s film, but the writer hopes the movie sheds light on support systems like these, especially for college students and their parents. This diving sequence at Canham Natatorium captures the nightmare of a stressed athlete whose mother is unaware of his struggles.
Labor of love
The Athletes Connected initiative is a unique collaboration between the U-M School of Public Health, Depression Center, and Athletic Department. “If you or someone you know can benefit from mental health treatment or is having a mental health emergency, take action,” says Rapoport, who co-wrote Coming up for Air with Deborah Staples. Though not affiliated with or endorsed by U-M, Rapoport’s film work as an alumnus exemplifies the University’s long tradition as a leader in this space.
Everybody into the pool
Established in 2001, the U-M Comprehensive Depression Center (UMDC) is the first of its kind devoted entirely to bringing depression into the mainstream of medical research, translational care, education, and public policy. The center is at the forefront in changing the paradigm of how depression and bipolar illnesses are understood and treated. Rapoport hopes his film plays a part in that equation. Here, a crewmember surveys the pool at Canham Natatorium.
Dick Kimball consulted on the film; he served a 43-year term as head diving coach at U-M, holding the post from 1960-2002, while adding eight more seasons (2003-10) as the team’s volunteer assistant. The 2001-02 season marked his 43rd and final as the head diving coach of the men’s program and 27th for the women’s team, although he has coached women divers at U-M even before they officially became a program. His accolades and awards are too lengthy to list here!
Actor Chase Yi (left) confers with film director Bob Cicchini as they prepare for the diving sequence at Canham Natatorium. “This very relevant new film will inspire empathy and awareness of the complexities of personal responsibility,” Cicchini says. “It also will support community discussions of the real conditions and biases toward mental health treatment.”
Yi’s “diving double” tests out Canham’s facilities. Rapoport says he hopes Coming up for Air will launch a national conversation about the critical role caregivers play in helping those in need.
The film takes place at the fictional Lake State University, so crew members had to mask the pool’s Michigan-centric signage. The crew also shot on location elsewhere in Michigan and Wisconsin. Robert Goodrich, JD ’64, head of the Goodrich Community Theater circuit, worked closely with the production team as executive producer.
Rapoport’s co-writer Deborah Staples (far right) stars as the student-athlete’s mother in the film. As she reviews the script for an upcoming scene with her fellow actors, (l-r) Evan Lugo and Torsten Johnson, one is reminded of how her role illuminates the hard work parents do every day to protect their children and keep them out of harm’s way.
All in a day’s work
Depression treatment strategies can be as diverse as the people who seek them, and the team at the U-M Depression Center provides personalized care to match a patient’s specific biology, diagnosis, and lifestyle. The center’s physicians work closely with geneticists and other researchers to understand the best way to tailor treatments to patients, rather than approach treatment through “trial and error.”