Mental health round table

What do people with mental health difficulties think of the ways they are portrayed by charities and campaigns? One in Four finds out

In August 2009, One in Four brought together three people with mental health difficulties to discuss adverts and campaign films produced by charities and government agencies.

The panel

Seaneen Molloy: Award winning blogger, regular contributor to BBC’s Ouch and One in Four

Heather Payne: Media Action Worker, South Warwickshire User Forum

Hannah Chamberlain: Documentary film maker and founder of Barrage Media, a specialist company training and communications video in mental health.

You Know, You Choose

‘You Know, You Choose’ is England’s first mental health promotion TV campaign, first shown in the ITV Anglia region in October 2008. It was made in a partnership between the Care Services Improvement Partnership in the east of England, charity the Mental Health Foundation and ITV Anglia. The advert shows a man sitting on his sofa deciding to make his life better by following the advice that he should do what makes him feel better. It finishes by inviting people to the Wellbeing East Website .

Seaneen Molloy: It’s sound advice, patronisingly delivered. It’s good advice in terms of eat well, do exercise, unless you have a severe depression and you can’t get yourself out of bed or something.

Hannah Chamberlain: You do get these kinds of message all the time, don’t you? I can get those messages through opening any newspaper, any magazine… It’s the pressure of dealing with all of these media set targets that sometimes makes me feel depressed, because it’s all about ‘I have to think positively, I have to cut down on my booze’, otherwise I’ll never live to the normal standard.

Heather Payne: It is a wellbeing message; it’s not a mental health message.

HC: I don’t think that people with mental health difficulties are the target audience.

S: It’s meant to be empowering but it comes across as infantilising. You feel talked down to.

HP: It’s general stuff for everybody. When you’re going through a really bad patch, half of those things you cannot do.

S: If you were going through a bad patch and you watched it, you’d feel a bit crap. The diet and exercise things hit home so much in terms of mental heath. If you are ill, it’s not just a matter of laziness, it’s ‘I can’t do this’.

HP: It’s reinforcing that thing you only just have to pull yourself together, eat well, and you will not be mentally ill.

S: It’s one of those adverts that feels like a government propaganda advert.

Schizo The Movie

Schizo The Movie is one of two short adverts produced by national anti-stigma campaign Time to Change. It is appearing on popular websites such as The Mirror, The Sun, The Daily Mail, MSN and Yahoo and in cinemas. The ad begins with a horror film style introduction, leading the audience down a dark corridor only to find a very normal man at the end in a very nice house who explains about his experience of schizophrenia.

HC: They’ve carefully chosen that room to make everything as normal as possible.

S: Not meaning to pick holes, but the research shows that schizophrenia tends to affect people form more deprived backgrounds who have an outcome of less economic stability, but that’s not such good propaganda, is it?.

HP: It’s going to make middle class people feel comfortable, the target people are going to be ‘that’s very nice, there’s one of us, he’s okay, he’s well spoken, his partner looks very nice’. Your average Joe in the street is going to look at that and say ‘bloody ponce’.

S: Because it’s so stagy it is forgettable. I can see where they’re coming from as those sorts of publication like The Sun and The Mail do have a tendency to use that sort of derogatory language, but it’s a bit of a missed opportunity.

HP: I showed to my media watch group and immediately someone said ‘It’s reinforcing stereotypes at the beginning’.

HC: Doing things with stereotypes of schizophrenia is admirable because what it’s doing is saying ‘come on, this is what you all think.’

S: As a person with mental heath difficulties I feel unmoved by it, which is sad. This whole campaign has left me quite unmoved. I haven’t had the feeling of ‘yeah, let’s fight stigma!’ I just feel flat.

HC: I feel I’m not the target audience for this kind of advert. It actually might be quite empowering if you didn’t just target adverts at other people’s stigma but at people’s self stigma as well.

HC: After you’ve watched are you meant to go ‘Where’s the schizophrenic, I need to give him a hug?!’ Whether someone is going to watch then go away and have a conversation about it, I’m not sure.

S: I’m not sure it would encourage anyone to speak up either.

Workplace facts

Workplace Facts was produced for Shift, the government funded anti-stigma programme. It is one of the ‘Life in the Office’ series of short films designed to encourage discussion about managing mental ill-health in the workplace and can be watched online or on DVD. The film shows a number of characters in an office talking about the impact that mental ill health has on productivity while each says ‘Me, I’m All Right’. The film suggests that people should be able to discuss their problems at work

S: I quite liked it, but quoting all those statistics about how people with mental health difficulties cost companies money felt like a bit of an attack.

HC: To me it felt very negative.

HC: I think it’s a bit unrealistic about how people operate in an office. People have work relationships in offices; they don’t have personal relationships in offices. Unless you work in a mental health charity you’re not going to go ‘I’ve come to this meeting, but now I’ve got to go and see my therapist’. It’d be better if they had statistics about just how many people with mental health difficulties hold down a full time job in an office.

S: Instead of the touchy-feely stuff they should do about holding bosses and employers to account for being inflexible for not allowing time off for appointments and the like.

HC: I think it’s slightly missing its mark.

S: I think it’s trying to get people to talk to their managers about their problems

HC: I think some businesses are flexible. They’ve looked a big business there. It’d be interesting for them to look at a small business.

HC: Actually, showing someone with a mental health difficulty on screen unless they are a real life person who is empowered to tell their own story is a problem.

HP: It’s lumping all mental health problems in together, which is a problem. There’s a big difference between having stress in the workplace and for instance someone who is being medicated and has a diagnosis of bipolar.

HC: I think it would be more powerful to have people telling their real life stories about work. Have real people saying ‘I have a mental health difficulty and my employer was supportive in this way and they did this that was helpful and they could have done more of that’.

HC: If I was an employer, I’d want to know about the Disability Discrimination Act and how that affects my responsibility towards people with mental health difficulties. I don’t necessarily want to see images like this.

HP: It didn’t feel like anyone with mental health difficulties was involved in producing this.

HC: I’d be really disappointed if there wasn’t.

HP: It’s hearing lived experience that people get the most out of, and that’s an opportunity missed in this. To have actors takes away from the message.

S: If I was shown this at work, I wouldn’t want to pipe up.

HP: I’ve never admitted it in any job apart from my current one, which is working for a mental health charity.

S: They should be tackling that we feel this way about ourselves. In the workplace I’ve always been absolutely terrified of people finding out. I’ve disclosed it once and I was found out once.

HP: We as people with mental health difficulties are the end beneficiaries of this and how much better would it be just to stick us on there? We can speak for ourselves.

Summing up

HP: I quite admire the Schizo one. The biggest amount of stigma is still attached to schizophrenia. As a piece of film making it’s very good, I like it. I’d like to show it to people who aren’t involved in mental health and see what they make of it. I know the actor is someone with a diagnosis, but I still think there are other ways they could have used people with experience. You can never be truly representative, but they could have used someone slightly less middle class and white.

HC: I’m a documentary film maker, so I want to see real people telling real stories. If an organisation is set up to encourage people to come out and get rid of their own stigma, hearing real life stories is what actually turns people opinions around. I would have liked to see someone who has experience in the wellbeing ad saying ‘it really helps me if…’ Some real practical advice from someone who knows what its like would be helpful to me and a broader section of society. People are encouraged to tell their stories and people feel safe if it’s a project led by people with mental health difficulties, why aren’t there more like that coming out?

HC: Video is very good at conveying emotions; it’s not so good at conveying facts. So much depends on what people look like, and that is a problem when it comes to conveying mental health issues. If you get real life people they’ll look like television news, not like cinema adverts. It shouldn’t be a problem; there are ways to shoot it. Using real people turns things on its head. It gets away from the argument about whether it’s targeted at us, because it is us. We’re still in a situation where we’re been done to, so you have to have people with experience of mental health difficulties involved in the making of these things.

HC: People with mental health difficulties should be involved both behind and in front of the camera

S: They should definitely involve people with mental health difficulties; otherwise it’s just us being talked at by people who don’t know what they’re talking about

A shorter version of this feature first appeared in the Autumn 2009 edition of One in Four magazine

Read articles from the current issue of One in Four

Subscribe to One in Four for £10.00GBP per year!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

One in Four welcomes your comments and has a strong moderation policy. We believe in fair comment but will not publish posts that contravene any current law.