After almost three weeks of events, screenings and performances, one might think there’s not much more the Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival could offer. Yet the short films presented by See Me at the Glasgow Film Theatre proved the festival is ending with just as much quality and energy as it started. The screening introduced the stories of four individuals through four incredibly powerful documentaries, while also touching themes less explored in other events, such as hoarding disorder.
The screenings started with Stu Edwards’ I’m Still Here, in which a sports reporter talked about his social anxiety. His words were matched with sports footage, mostly from a football game and a boxing match. The intensity of the footage and the editing created a particular tension in the audience, mesmerised by what was going on on the screen. Following that, Lucie Rachel’s Let Us Let Go gave a glimpse of the director’s life, presenting an intimate portrayal of her life and romantic relationship, and how both were shaken to the core by her mental health condition. Alice Nelson’s Linda and Ron briefly explored the particular relationship between Ron, who suffers from hoarding disorder and his counsellor and friend Linda. Finally, Lindsay Goodall’s Borderline featured the story of Lynn, who beautifully shared her thoughts and feelings through dance.
With striking simplicity and sincerity, as well as a significant amount of courage, all the filmmakers and their subjects managed to get across important messages that will hopefully tackle mental health discrimination. The focus of these documentaries, besides the mental health conditions described by each individual, was their passions and interests. Sports, art, dance and aeroplane models all made it easier for the audience to identify with the people talking on the screen, regardless of their own mental health history.
Unlike some events in the SMHAFF programme, these short films could have primarily, but not exclusively, appealed to people who have never experienced any mental health disorders – their true strength resided in how something unfamiliar and unsettling was turned into something intrinsically humane and universally comprehensible and acceptable.
by Ludovica Credendino
Click here to find out more about this joint project from See Me and Glasgow Film to produce short films that change the way people think about mental health, and read this piece on See Me's website about Lindsay Goodall's Borderline and dancer Lynn Shaw.
Talking Heads reporter Jamie Goodwin produced this podcast at Strictly Recovery: Time to Dance, a fun participatory event at Recovery Fest in Renfrewshire, demonstrating how dance can contribute to mental health, wellbeing and recovery.
He spoke to people working with some of the organisations involved, including the Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership (RHSCP), Recovery Across Mental Health (RAMH), Renfrewshire Alcohol and Drug Partnership and Sunshine Recovery Cafe, to discover what dance means to them and find out more about the innovative work that is going on in this community.
The podcast contains interviews with: Colin Turner, Recovery Development Worker, Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership (RHSCP); Jackie Heron, Day Services Manager, RAMH; Rowan Anderson, Planning and Development Officer, Renfrewshire Alcohol and Drug Partnership; Debbie Jones, Vice Chair and Co-Founder, Sunshine Recovery Cafe; Iain Risk, Committee Member, Sunshine Recovery Cafe; and Stephen Houston, Chairman and Co-Founder, Sunshine Recovery Cafe.
Self-harm, it seems, is one of those topics which even within conversations about mental health is difficult to talk about. Its designation as somewhat taboo territory, and the fact that those experiencing self-harm often go to great lengths to conceal the behaviour, means that it is the subject of misrepresentation, misunderstanding and fear.
In its portrayal in the media or among the general population, self-harm tends to be characterised as either a teen problem, a cry for attention or an attempt to manipulate others into a response, none of which gives an accurate picture of a behaviour that often serves as a way of coping with seemingly overwhelming distress or insurmountable obstacles, at times when no other option offers adequate relief or solace. There is a need therefore to bring self-harm into the open, to develop a language for discussions, free of panic, shame or stigma. This is what makes Out of Harm, an arts project involving young people with experience of self-harm, so important.
Out of Harm was conceived by storyteller Wendy Woolfson and supported by ConFAB, along with photographer Lisa Craig and researcher Josie Vallely. Woolfson’s experience not only as a therapeutic storyteller but also, more recently, as a counsellor for Childline informed the genesis for the project. In the latter role, she explained, at least 50% of her dealings with young people related to the issue of self-harm. In speaking to young people about the issue, it became clear that the adults in their lives felt unprepared and unable to respond appropriately to a disclosure of self harm, just as those living with the issue felt unsure as to how to open up the conversation. Out of Harm goes a long way in beginning to address these barriers.
This collaborative piece of work has evolved over the course of the last few months. It has brought a group of young people together in a series of workshops, where they have worked with the mediums of photography, poetry, filmmaking and traditional folktales, exploring what self harm means to them and examining their uniquely complex life experiences and identities. For those of us fortunate enough to be present, it was an honour to witness the final showcasing of this work.
With great wit, honesty and creativity, the individuals involved shared with us parts of themselves seldom seen and in turn shed light on an issue which has been in the shadows for far too long. Out of Harm helps to illustrate that self-harm is not an alien experience. In fact, it is not even particularly uncommon, merely part of the spectrum of what it often means to be painfully human, to feel hurt and to look for an outlet, a means of expression and a tool for survival. Out of Harm is the start of a conversation – its ultimate aim is to give us a language to say the unsayable, to shine a spotlight into dark corners. The power is in all of us to continue the dialogue.
by Susan McKinstery
Talking Heads reporter Colin MacGregor attended a Wellbeing and Happiness Workshop at the Town House in Hamilton hosted by Britain's Got Talent star and wellbeing practitioner Edward Reid, as part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival.
As we awaited permission to enter the hall, the gathering crowd, mostly ladies may I add, speculated about what the night would entail. “It’ll definitely be him singing”, said one. “It’ll be a laugh”, said another. All of a sudden everything went quiet as one woman piped up: “It’s meditating…we’ll be meditating.” Sure enough, she was right, as was everyone else for that matter.
You see, not only is Edward Reid a fantastic entertainer, he is also a qualified wellbeing practitioner and, let me assure you, not one person would have left that hall disappointed. The night started more like “an audience with…” style show, as Edward created a comfortable environment with his own brand of wit interspersed with a few of his songs. Then it was down to the business of the workshop and by this time Edward had the audience with him all the way.
Prior to the meditation, Edward made the quote of the night: “Don’t worry,” he said. “You’ll not wake up half naked eating a raw onion and dry humping a mic stand – it’s not that kind of show.” But then, for a whole 14 minutes, the audience submitted themselves to a trance-like meditation, while Edward relayed instructions in a dulcet tone. I, for one, fell into a relaxing state of mind and felt afterwards that I had to shake my head and establish again just where I was.
Alas, my lift home had to drag me away early, and I left just as everyone was getting on their feet to do a little dancing workshop. That’s something I don’t do, but I left the workshop with a smile on my face, knowing everyone in that hall would sleep well tonight.
Edward is a class act with an exceptionally endearing personality, enabling him to put on workshops like this with confidence that they’ll be a success. Edward Reid, box ticked.
by Colin MacGregor
You can also read Colin's interview with Edward Reid, where they discussed why he is working with the festival and how his career has developed since finding fame on Britain's Got Talent.
Here is a simple song based on my feelings about the grief I have experienced. I hope that if you listen to it you will identify with it in some way, as nearly all of us have been through some kind of grief or loss in our lives.
My intention is that if you are thinking of going to watch the Good Grief short films, this song will resonate with you in some way and encourage you to see them. I believe they will address this difficult and often taboo subject in a moving yet helpful manner.
by Lorna Stewart
Good Grief is a programme of short films to encourage dialogue about mortality. Curated by filmmaker and visual artist Theresa Moerman Ib, it takes place at 7pm on Saturday 29 October at Edinburgh Printmakers as part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival.