unMASKing HOPE: Triumph After Trauma

Alto Neuroscience
February 2, 2023
Patient Advocacy

Alto Neuroscience sponsored the premiere of unMASKing HOPE, an Eric Christiansen documentary featuring stories of trauma survivors on journeys to find hope. Following is a recap of the event, important themes presented throughout the film, exclusive clips, and full viewing information.

In unMASKing HOPE by director Eric Christiansen, the familiar faces of trauma are chronicled through sharing the extraordinary journeys of a diverse group of survivors as they emerge from behind their masks that hide emotional scars and hinder healing. From 9/11 and mass shooting survivors to military combat soldiers and sexual assault victims, the film goes beneath these “masks” in an up-close, personal way.

Throughout the film, survivors’ personal accounts of experiencing, coping with, and healing from trauma are weaved together through intimate interviews, interpretive dance, lyrical animation, and expert commentary – with the goal to educate viewers on the intricacies of trauma and challenges survivors face in the healing process. The aggregate stories of brave individuals featured demonstrate the resiliency of the human spirit, while promoting tolerance and empathy for those who have been stigmatized by traumatic events.

The film’s private premiere screening took place on January 19, 2023 at Laemmle Royal Theater in Los Angeles, CA, followed immediately by a panel discussion featuring survivors and experts featured in the documentary. Throughout the film, Dr. Amit Etkin, MD, PhD, Alto founder and CEO, provided commentary on trauma and recovery from the perspective of a psychiatrist-neuroscientist and thought leader in the space.

Several key themes discussed in the film and at the premiere included trauma being a universal experience, shared by many but often not openly discussed or disclosed; the importance of seeking help from the community or mental health professionals, as most delay tapping into these resources until far along in their healing; trauma recovery is a long road, and can often be a lifelong process; and new, more personalized treatments are desperately needed for those struggling with mental health conditions resulting from trauma.

While unMASKing HOPE invites viewers to explore the complex nature of trauma and recovery, important questions provoked throughout the film are also addressed by Dr. Etkin’s expert commentary. Following are exclusive clips from the documentary that provide supportive context for various anecdotes shared, in conjunction with the questions they help shed light on.

How does trauma interrupt one’s life narrative? What is the physical impact of trauma?

How do people typically experience trauma? Why do we mask ourselves, and what impact does this response cause?

What relationship does PTSD have with isolation, and how do these reinforce each other? How does PTSD inhibit the ability to participate in supportive behaviors?

How many people experience trauma? What can a journey of recovery and healing look like?

Ultimately, unMASKing HOPE aims to share a powerful message of hope to inspire survivors and community members alike to unmask our own hope in the face of adversity, to heal and triumph after trauma.

Featured, from left to right: Eric, director; Dr. Etkin, psychiatrist-neuroscientist; Sandra, Iraq veteran, PTSD sufferer, survivor, military sexual trauma; Lyman, child sexual abuse survivor; Molly and Heidi, mass shootings survivors.

While unMASKing HOPE is the latest documentary by Eric Christiansen, his previous films include Faces in the Fire, Homecoming: A Vietnam Vets Journey and Searching for Home: Coming Back from War. Leveraged as educational tools by top mental health institutions, these films migrate from the entertainment arena into environments that help audiences navigate the profound collateral damage trauma creates not only on the individual but the family and community as well. 

Collectively, Christiansen’s films have been transformative in the recovery process for thousands of people whose lives have been compromised mentally, physically, and spiritually by trauma.


unMASKing HOPE is now available on national public television and streaming online here; please check listings near you or visit unmaskinghopethemovie.com to learn more.

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