Filmmaker Sheds Light On Mental Illness Following 3 People In A Specialty Mental Health Probation Program

Daniel at his apartment in Cicero, IL. Credit: Margaret Byrne

In honor of BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month in July, for its mid-season finale, ‘America ReFramed‘ presented the broadcast premiere of Margaret Byrne’s award-winning documentary ‘Any Given Day’ on July 7th, during its milestone 10th season on public television’s WORLD Channel

In 2015, in the midst of widespread defunding of community mental health care programs across the country, in Chicago, the Cook County Jail has become a default treatment center for people living with mental illness.

While investigating the treatment of detainees, filmmaker Margaret Byrne meets Angela, Dimitar and Daniel, participants in a mental health court probation program. Their friendship gives each of them the courage to be seen at their most vulnerable. Filmed over five years, their stories expose a system designed for punishment, yet used as a replacement for mental health care. The absence of support takes a toll on family members and friends whom Angela, Dimitar and Daniel provide for and depend on. The resulting stigma and isolation keep them caught in cycles of victory and defeat.

In turn, Margaret begins to confront one of the most difficult periods of her life, culminating in a hospitalization for depression. What begins as a heartfelt desire to accurately portray the lives of Angela, Dimitar and Daniel, forces Margaret to reckon with her own history of mental illness. Margaret’s own hospitalization that occurs during the making of the film, becomes an inspiration to weave her own story into ‘Any Given Day.

Her intimate observations of the three, captures the hard-fought triumphs and struggles of living at the intersection of mental illness, poverty, and addiction. Any Given Day provides deeply personal insight into the necessity of caring relationships, especially when life is at its most difficult.

Angela near her apartment in Chicago, IL. Credit: Anjali Pinto

The issue of mental health is now not only relevant but crucial. Nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness (that is nearly 51.5 million people in 2019, according to the National Institute of Mental Health). 

In a press release, Margaret express that although she had not initially set out to make an autobiographical film, it became clear to her at a certain point that it would be necessary for it to be an honest film.

We were honored to speak with Margaret in the lead-up to the film’s broadcast on ‘America ReFramed’. Here’s what she told us in more depth about her filmmaking process, being vulnerable on camera, and shedding light on an aspect of the mental health industry that more people need to be aware about.

What made you initially decide to make this film and document the lives of Angela, Dimitar and Daniel? 

In 2014, after half the community mental health clinics in Chicago closed, Cook County Jail in Chicago became the largest single-site mental health facility in the country. After a hospitalization for depression, I was searching for a way to connect with the world again so I started filming and talking with detainees at the jail that were receiving mental health services.

Even early on in the process of making this film, I recognized there was something positive in the small connections I was making with people, despite what felt like astronomical odds against them. After spending a few months filming in the jail I started looking at diversion programs and began observing the mental health courts. That’s how I came to meet Angela, Daniel, and Dimitar.

Coming out of a 2-year global pandemic, a lot of people are understanding the ways mental health is important. What do you hope more people will learn after watching ‘Any Given Day’?

Most of ‘Any Given Day’ takes place before the pandemic. Since the pandemic’s onset, rates of mental health challenges have increased across all walks of life. An important lesson that came out of the pandemic is that we need to talk more about our mental health and mental health treatment. We have to bring it out of the shadows and normalize it. Research shows that stigma and discrimination against people with mental illness causes systemic harm. I hope people will watch ‘Any Given Day’ and see there remains an urgent need to find ways to support our neighbors and loved ones living with mental illness.

You decided to also document your own journey with mental health while making this film. Why did you want to share your story with audiences?

I never set out to make an autobiographical film, but at a certain point it became obvious that I’d have to be in it if it was going to be an honest film. I would need to find a way to share that I myself was struggling behind the scenes to maintain my own mental health. And once I turned the camera on myself, it forced me to confront the stigma I would continue to perpetuate if I chose to withhold my own illness. It also forced me to challenge the stereotype that a person with a mental illness is an unreliable narrator.

Dimitar at his apartment in Chicago, IL. Credit: Anjali Pinto

What was the most difficult and confronting part of documenting yourself in the film? 

The hardest thing was confronting myself. Avoiding what is painful and tucking it away is easier, but it  manifests. I asked Angela, Daniel and Dimitar to be vulnerable and I knew I needed to do the same. Sometimes it’s hard for me to watch the film because it can bring back difficult memories, and I know that’s how it can be for them too.

The film shows audiences the intersections of addiction and poverty, alongside the featured characters’ mental illnesses. Why was it important for you to showcase this? 

Mental illness and addiction are very often intertwined and it’s important to understand why. The stories in the film show how people with mental illness use drugs and alcohol to self medicate, to treat their symptoms in the absence of alternative forms of care. When mental illness is misunderstood, people are afraid to be open and get treatment.Large disparities persist across race and economic status in the United States with regard to knowledge of, diagnosis, and access to effective treatments for mental health challenges. 

For those who haven’t heard of mental health court probation, what is it, and how does this impact the lives of the main characters in your film? 

Mental health court is meant to offer treatment and care, rather than punishment and incarceration, to individuals who have mental illness and who are convicted of non-violent crimes. These courts were established because, due to changes in the social safety net including de-institutionalization and the criminalization of drug use, the Department of Justice has become the largest provider of mental health care in the United States.

Angela, Daniel, and Dimitar had to plead guilty to participate in the program and upon completion they could get their records expunged. They were released from jail under the care of the court and were able to receive treatment in their communities.   

Dimitar, Gina and Margaret discuss filming. Credit: Anjali Pinto

More people need to see the reality of what it looks like to replace mental health care with a carceral system. What do you hope more people will advocate for after watching ‘Any Given Day’? 

There is a gap between our understanding and knowledge about treating serious mental illness, and our public services available to provide and support people with mental illness and their families. There are policies and legislation working to address this problem, including collaborations between policing and mental health care to identify and triage people who are having mental health crises into care rather than into criminal justice. 

The Community Emergency Services and Supports Act in Illinois is one such effort. This bill, effective as of January, 2022, directs emergency calls regarding mental and behavioral health crises to the States 988 emergency system, establishes a set of statewide goals for how such emergencies should be addressed, and requires each Emergency Medical Services Region to establish a protocol for responding to those emergency calls.

‘Any Given Day’ is an invitation to move the conversation towards empathy and understanding and away from criminalizing and marginalizing individuals living with mental illness. I hope people will watch the film and find ways to support legislation that address the needs specific to their family, community, and state.

Thank you for choosing to be so open and vulnerable with your own story in this film. It was incredible to see this. We want to end with a question for you: what makes you a powerful woman?

I was trying to put in words where I draw my power from and I learned a new word–ameliorate: to turn something bad into something good. I think that’s what we did together making ‘Any Given Day’, we took our pain and turned it into something purposeful. 

You can watch ‘Any Given Day’ starting July 7 during its milestone 10th season on public television’s WORLD Channel. “America ReFramed” broadcasts on WORLD Channel every Thursday at 8/7c (check local listings at ‘Any Given Day’ will also stream online upon premiere at, and on all station-branded PBS platforms.

Margaret films Angela near her apartment in Chicago, IL. Credit: Anjali Pinto

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