The Why


The Why

For a country that is so developed in so many ways, America is plagued by depression, with frequency of occurrences only increasing with younger generations. It can be very uncomfortable to talk about, especially with people who may not understand it, but the less it's talked about, the harder it is to deal with.

We believe that one of the best ways to combat this serious mental illness and the stigma surrounding it is to talk openly about it. To share our stories, to make it normative. This will not only help those never having dealt with depression begin to understand a bit of what it means to be depressed, but also will help show those who are dealing with depression that they're not alone, that there are others like them, and that there are so, so many people wanting to help them. 


The What

The What

This film will be a catalogue of our journey to find true happiness, and interviews with people we meet along the way talking about individual experiences with both depression and happiness. We want to find what it is that makes people happy, and why depression is so prevalent. We're going to talk to people who have first-hand experiences with both, as well as those who study it. We're going to get real with them. We want to discover our cultural perception of happiness and deconstruct this perception that leaves so many feeling empty.

We've personally gone through bouts of depression. We've felt isolated, sad, and hopeless. By experiencing these lows, we've grown to live even greater highs. With nearly one in four young adults suffering from depression before reaching age 24, and 20 million people in America dealing with depression every single year, something has to change. We want to shine the spotlight on this overwhelming issue and help bring hope of happiness to as many people as possible.


The Who

The Who

This film will be a combination of interviews with happiness experts, psychiatrists, psychologists, professors, spiritual leaders, and a mix of the unique perspectives from all of the different characters we meet along the way.

We currently have interviews with:

Dr. Dan Haybron

Dr. Haybron is a philosopher an psychology professor based out of St. Louis University, with a primary focus on the "connection of human nature and the good life." He is currently leading a three-year research project, Happiness and Well-Being: Integrating Research Across the Disciplines, funded by the John Templeton Foundation and Saint Louis University.

Rev. Gail Stearns

Dr. Stearns is the Irvin C. and Edy Chapman Dean of the Wallace All Faiths Chapel and Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Chapman University. Her work's current focus is on mindfulness in meditation, to bring awareness to the present moment, reduce anxiety, and foster compassion.

Beau Bridges

Beau Bridges is an actor with a long, successful career in television and film. He is a three-time Emmy, two-time Golden Globe and one-time Grammy winner. He is a family man with five children and a beautiful wife.

Dr. Jay Kumar

Dr. Kumar counsels organizations in what he calls the "Currency of Happiness," to focus on both short- and long-term wealth and wellbeing. Dr. Kumar has a Ph.D. in cognitive science and religious studies, is the co-founder of the Applied Brain Science Research Institute for Wealth & Wellbeing, and is at the forefront of brain research and happiness.

Dr. Bernie Siegel

Bernie, as he prefers to be called, is an author and retired pediatric surgeon, who has published twelve books with a primary focus on the connection between the patient and the healing process. He has worked with psychotherapy in patient recovery and written on the way in which a positive outlook and "emotional growth toward greater self-acceptance and fulfillment helps keep the immune system strong."

Lionel Ketchian

Founder of the international Happiness Club, and author of the “Happiness Formula” and the “One Step Method for Happiness," Lionel Ketchian believes that happiness can change the world, one person at a time, starting with oneself, and he is at the forefront of the push to do just that.

Dr. Deborah McGill

Dr. McGill is has a Doctorate in Psychology with Masters in Clinical Psychology and Education. Her passion is to further “the new psychology paradigm that not only educates the mind but integrates the Heart, Body and Spirit.” Expanding psychology beyond this base perspective allows an incorporation of "health and wellness on levels of consciousness." For the last 15 years she has working with Global Heart Wisdom and the Esalen Institute to expand human potential and work with emotional healing, co-dependency, and addiction.

Nanice Ellis

Nanice Ellis is a transpersonal life coach and author, having written dozens of articles for sites like wakeupworld.com. Nanice bridges the gap from "imagination to realization." She has done numerous pieces on depression and happiness, and she helps bring people from where they are to where they want to be.

Melissa Grace Hoon

Melissa is the founder and executive director of Inner Awakening Writing Center, an organization through which she facilitates a therapeutic journaling and meditation program. After overcoming abuse and battling depression, Melissa became a sexual assault counselor and developed her program in 2013 to help survivors of sex trafficking, sexual assault, and domestic violence in their healing process. Today, she facilitates her program nationwide to help workshop participants find happiness, peace, and inner strength.

Debbie Barnett

Debbie “The Yoga Woman” Barnett has been a certified yoga teacher since 2001, and applies the driving principles of yoga to everyday situations. Her approach to teaching and consulting technique focuses on careful analysis, listening, and presence, in order to help achieve excellence. Debbie fulfills her mission of “healing the world through yoga, one breath at a time.”

Marian McCord

Marian is the Executive Director and Founder of CHADS Coalition for Mental Health. CHADS, an organization based in St. Louis, MO, stands for Communities Healing Adolescent Depression & Suicide. CHADS offers school outreach programs, community awareness presentations and classes as well as family support programs to advance the awareness and prevention of depression and suicide.

Britt Reints

Britt, author of "An Amateur's Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness," considers herself a "Czar of Happiness." She has been featured on TEDx with her talk on creating your own owner's manual for a happy life and spent ten months traveling in an RV around the United States with her husband and two kids. Britt wants to create a world where people trust themselves and each other to follow their own paths.

Carol Dweck

Carol Dweck, a Stanford professor, psychologist and author of the book, "Mindset," is a pioneering researcher in the field of of motivation and success. Her research has been featured in The New Yorker, Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Boston Globe. Her research has also lead her to being featured on 20/20 and Today.   

Jeffrey Sparr

Sparr, co-founder of PeaceLove studios, is a mental health advocate, teacher and self-taught artist. He is on a mission to make mental illness "cool," not cool to have, but cool to support. PeaceLove is a movement of hope and support for communities impacted by mental health disorders. Their goal is to help create peace of mind through expressive arts and a symbol of hope.

Sarah Hartshorne

Sarah Hartshorne, Vice President of Project UROK, was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in college, but struggled with both conditions as a teenager. Project UROK, a non-profit organization based out of New York, has four goals: to de-stigmatize mental illness, combat isolation, create an online community and reduce teen suicide.  The Project UROK team creates funny, meaningful videos for teenagers struggling with mental health issues, made by people who have been there before. 

Pico Iyer

Pico Iyer, a British-born essayist and novelist of Indian origin is best known for his travel writing. Iyer was born in Oxford, England in 1957, to parents from India, and educated at Eton, Oxford and Harvard. Since 1986 he has been writing books and since 1992 he has been based in rural Japan with his longtime sweetheart, while spending part of each year in a Benedictine hermitage in California. Iyer has been featured on TED twice with "The Art of Stillness" and "Where is Home?" as his topics.

Skip Rizzo

Albert "Skip" Rizzo is a research professor at USC Davis School of Gerontology and USC Keck School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Science. Rizzo conducts research on the design, development and evaluation of virtual reality (VR) systems targeting the areas of clinical assessment, treatment rehabilitation and resilience.

John Polish

John Polish is the internationally recognized author of “Finding Your Happiness” and “A Healthier Happier Business". He is an award winning motivational speaker, radio talk show host and the creator of The Personal Happiness Graph. In 2009 John became the proud father of Abigail Anne Polish.  “Abby” was born with a rare genetic disorder (Trisomy 18).  She lived for just 2 days.  John now shares Abby’s story to inspire others to Find Happiness. Through his books, the UNSTUCK Happiness Conferences, Finding Your Happiness Workshops, and his personal development programs he has helped countless numbers of people get unstuck so that they can move forward in faith and Find Happiness.  His work has inspired people to start businesses, has saved marriages and has helped many find a renewed hope.


The When & Where

The When & Where

Our trip will last 10 weeks, starting on March 11, and ending on May 20, 2016. We've laid out our journey thus far by week, breaking it down so that we have the flexibility to spend more time in the places we see fit as we go along. 

If you, or anyone you know, has dealt with depression or mental illness, please contact us and let us know if you'd like to share your thoughts or to set up an interview! 

The plan is: 

March 22 - March 28


March 29


March 30 - March 31


April 1 - April 7

Colorado; New Mexico; Texas; Louisiana

April 8 - April 14

Birmingham, AL; Nashville, TN; Asheville, NC; Richmond, VA; Washington, DC; Baltimore, MD

April 15 - April 21

Eastern PA; NYC; Connecticut

April 22 - April 28

Massachusetts; Vermont; Geneva, NY; Cleveland, OH; Detroit, MI

April 29 - May 5

Chicago, IL; St. Louis, MO; Columbia, MO; Fairfield, IA; Minneapolis, MN

May 6 - May 12

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, SD; Yellowstone NP; Missoula, MT; Glacier NP; Seattle, WA

May 13 - May 19

Portland, OR; Redwood NP; Northern CA; Lake Tahoe, CA

May 21

Max walks in graduation

May 23 - May 27

Santa Barbara; Santa Cruz; San Francisco; Yosemite

May 28 - May 29

Las Vegas