Christopher Tolmie is a student film maker from Glasgow. His short film, ‘Mental: A Family Experience’, won best ‘Youth Perspective’ film at the SMHAFF international film awards in October 2013. Christopher made the film about his brother, who suffers from psychosis, to capture his families struggles but also to document how the experience bonded them. This is what Christopher had to say about his experience:

I have always wanted to capture the experiences and history of having a close family member with mental illness. At school my friends never really talked about it much to me, I think it was because they were scared they would offend or hurt me in some way, and I would snap out at them, but this was never really the case. It finally came to my last project of the year for college when I had the opportunity to do a short film on it.

Apart from achieving what I wanted to do for a long time before that, I also wanted to highlight that mental illness is not necessarily a thing which completely incapacitates somebody. It is what you and your loved ones make of it. I wanted to show that through the traumatic times there were also times of success and achievement for my brother. Getting into university, staying out of hospital and rebuilding relationships with his family, friends and most importantly, himself. I also wanted to show the skeptics that mental illness is not something which should be stigmatized. As he has proven, my brother can lead a “normal life”, and with the help and love of the people whom he trusts, it can be made a lot easier.

The film for me is a short encapsulation of what it means to have someone in the family with mental illness, and to prove that it doesn’t by any means right off that person as a functioning member of a family and of society. It is a very intimate, honestly told and personal account of some of our family’s experiences in tackling Matthew’s illness, and how we are/what we are doing to overcome it. The film highlights the stresses as well as the successes in Matthews recovery journey.

After making the film I felt a great sense of satisfaction and of a weight off. However, with this, I also wanted to showcase it as an example of a person who is dealing with what they have been diagnosed with and as a potential example for others.

Winning the SMHAFF award was, for me, my greatest achievement in anything in my life so far. It wasn’t just an attempt for my work to be seen by sufferers of similar illnesses, but a clear example of something which has been used as that, but also, it has been appreciated in a much larger sense. It has given me the confidence to be more open about showing it to people and directing them to where it can be seen, from a medical/filmmaking or any other type of background or standpoint. I felt great pride in what I had achieved, from the whole process of doing it. Speaking to people at the awards who could relate to it, freely and openly talk about it, and share experiences and ideas was for me the best feeling in the world.

Find out more about the film submission

Guidlines and entry form