The documentary includes commentary by experts in education, medicine, juvenile justice and psychology. “REJECT” also features ostracism expert Kipling Williams, a Purdue University professor, and his study on ostracism.
Researchers in the film discuss findings that images of the brain of someone in physical pain or someone being socially rejected look similar. This was shown in the movie through a ball-tossing game and brain image in a magnetic resonance imaging. Through an MRI, the same parts of the brain lit up when someone was in pain and when someone felt rejected.
The film also studies acceptance in the school system and how it influences physical and mental health and self-esteem. It also shows the importance of having at least one friend.
“My father would say, help a person connect with at least one other person,” Thomas-Suh. “You only need one friend to make a difference.”
Tomas-Suh’s father, Dr. Herbert E. Thomas, author of the book “The Shame Response to Rejection,” worked as a resident psychiatrist for 30 years in a maximum-security prison and witnessed a connection between the experience of rejection and physical pain and how it could lead to acts of violence. The documentary was inspired by his work.
Overall, the film looks at the roots of bullying and how it leads to physical pain, which can result in violence. The film’s goal is to raise public awareness of potentially violent consequences of rejection from bullying and other types of social rejection.
At the end of the film, community leaders including parents, teachers, administrators, police officers and coaches were asked to respond to the film and discuss whether the program should be taken statewide.
Thomas-Suh hopes the documentary will be widely available by mid-2014.
“This is tough material, but it’s the right time for this conversation,” Tomas-Suh said. “We could each use this movie to make a difference in our one-to-one relationships.”