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Coming of Age Story Explores Impact of Mental Illness, Suicide on Family

Film Poster

Film Poster

In the film “Extra Innings” 12-year-old David just wants to play baseball, despite growing up in a conservative, Syrian-Jewish family where such pursuits are frowned upon.

But David (played as a child by actor Aidan Pierce Brennan) has more to worry about than sneaking around his strict parents to pursue his passion.

His older brother Morris (Robert Ramos) is living with schizophrenia and is confined to a room in the attic, where he memorizes books. His older sister Vivian (Mara Kassin), who is estranged from the family and moved to California, urges David to follow his dreams. However, Vivian is also dealing with mental illness.

So, David must struggle to balance his desire to become a baseball player, meet his parents’ expectations that he become a businessman, and deal with family tensions in the aftermath of a tragic loss.

The film is based on the life of social worker Albert Dabah, writer, and director of the film. Dabah also portrays David’s father, Eli Sabah. Like David in the film, Albert Dabah had a brother and sister who lived with mental illness. Sadly, both died by suicide.

Albert Dabah, MSW

Albert Dabah, MSW

“It’s based on a true story – nothing is made up to change the actual feeling of what is going on,” he said during an interview with Social Work Speaks.

The film has been screened more than 20 times. It snagged awards at the Manhattan Film Festival and Jersey Shore Film Festival and a Platinum award at the Royal Wolf Film Awards. Dabah is continuing to arrange ways for groups to watch the film, including virtual screenings during the COVID-19 pandemic. The film will also be available online after September 22.

Dabah was a business major and studying film. He then switched to psychology and worked in the field in a social worker job before earning his master’s degree in social work at Barry University in Miami. Dabah did acting for fun while he pursued his master’s degree and got experience in video production. He eventually got cast in a play and left the agency where he worked.

Dabah started working on about a dozen different drafts of “Extra Innings” and approached mental health organizations to try to get funding for a film. Dr. Dan Reidenberg, executive director of Suicide Awareness Voice of Education (S.A.V.E.), was impressed with the script and his organization helped Dabah raise funds to film it.

Dabah hopes social workers and others who watch the film will gain a greater understanding of people living with mental illness, those who have considered suicide, and individuals and families affected by mental illness or suicide.

“I joined a support group six months ago and I learned how much suicide affects you,” Dabah said. “It never really goes away. You deal with it. I was never able to talk about it like I can now.”

Go to the “Extra Innings” official website to learn more about the film and arrange a screening. And to learn more about how social workers help people living with mental illness visit the National Association of Social Workers’ Help Starts Here consumer website.

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