People First Media program archive

Graphic novelist Von Allan revisits childhood challenges for documentary film

September 18th, 2017 | Posted by pfmarchive in uncategorized

people first media mixcloud“As a small child, Von Allan had to cope with poverty, bullying, loneliness and his mother’s severe mental health problems” but he found a way to cope; now his creativity speaks volumes

Von Allan was born in Arnprior, Ontario in 1974. When he was still very young, his parents separated, and he spent the remainder of his youth split between a troubled mother and a gruff father. In 1980, he and his mother moved to a working class neighbourhood in Ottawa.

road to god knowsCoping with bullying and harsh teachers, Von found refuge in books, comics, science fiction, and wrestling. Like many others of his generation, Star Wars and Star Trek had huge influences on his psyche — but he also turned to the caped superheroes of comics for help when the world seemed a less friendly place.

Many years later, Von created and published a graphic novel called The road to God knows… exploring his childhood, and particularly, his experiences living with a mother who battled schizophrenia. Though the character and many of the situations in the novel were fictional, Von says “it’s pretty autobiographical; to tell the story, I drew on a lot of my own experiences with my own mom’s schizophrenia.”

You can listen to an interview we recorded with Von about The road to God knows… for our People First Radio program in 2009 here. The novel is now out of print.

More than half a million of Canada’s frontline mental healthcare “workers” are less than twelve years old

von allan the roadFlash forward to April 2015 and I received an email out of the blue from a writer/director named Megan Durnford.
She’s working on a documentary film about the impact of parental mental illness and wanted to talk with me about Road”

I Am Still Your Child, a documentary film by Megan Durnford, explores the point of view of growing up with a mentally ill parent through the intimate and touching stories of Sarah, Jessy and Von, but their experiences speak to a much wider issue.

Children who grow up with a parent who has mental health difficulties are at risk for a host of grave repercussions, among which a much higher risk of developing mental illness themselves and reproducing a potentially toxic pattern. These children are vulnerable to life-long disability and yet they are virtually invisible to our healthcare system.

The goal of the film makers is to shed light on the issue and provide solutions that will help break the isolation in which children of a parent with a mental illness often live. The documentary was broadcast on CBC Television in September 2017. Von’s participation in I Am Still Your Child was also highlighted in a CBC website post, “As a kid, his mother’s illness scared him — now he’s using comics to come to terms.”

You can watch the full documentary on the CBC website (link active as of September 16, 2017). Visit the documentary’s website here.

We speak with Von Allan.

people first media mixcloud764_still your child_von allan_sept 19_2017_40
Left-click to listen; right-click to save.


Watch the trailer for I Am Still Your Child


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