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The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival (SMHAF) is taking place from 7 - 27 May this year, showcasing a wide variety of music, film, visual art, theatre, dance and literature.
Now in its 12th year, the festival draws in more than 25,000 attendees and hosts over 300 events. This year's festival included a unique Into Film workshop, which brought together young people and Into Film Clubs from across Scotland to engage with issues of mental wellbeing through film. The end product was an affecting youth-made film called Beginnings, which you can watch above, while below, we hear from those involved in organising the event and from some of those who contributed to the film.
Into Film worked with existing Into Film Clubs based in North and Central Scotland to engage in a youth filmmaking initiative as part of SMHAF 2018. Into Film Club members from Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow came together to watch and discuss a curated programme of short films that explored mental health and the theme of ‘Beginnings'. Young people were then supported by a professional filmmaker to engage in producing their own content and expressing their voices in response to the theme. The final production - viewable in the video above - will be shared at showcase events, within the respective Into Film Clubs and to a wider school and local community audience, as well as featuring in the SMHAF 2018 programme of screening events across the country.
The theme of this year's Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival is 'Beginnings'. As Lead Film Practitioner for SMHAF 2018's Youth Initiative, I have just had the great pleasure of working with 70 talented young people from around the country exploring the topic of 'beginnings' through film.
On two very busy workshop days the young people watched, reviewed and discussed a carefully curated selection of short films. They were then tasked with producing their own content for a collaborative film aimed at informing a wider audience on this year's topic. The aims of this film parallel those of the project: to help reduce the stigma around mental health and to demonstrate that the road to positive mental health starts early in life.
I was delighted (though not at all surprised) to see how the films that we watched inspired the young people to engage in heated and thought-provoking discussion. A broad range of topics were covered, from exam pressure to eating disorders, from depression to dealing with difference. All the while, we kept a common thread running through our discussions how human relationships can affect our mental wellbeing.
Reflection on human relationships in our daily lives really came through in the young people's creative responses to the practical tasks set for them. And at the end of the day their message to the wider audience was clear: We need to take care of each other as well as ourselves. We shouldn't be afraid to speak out about our mental health problems, because there is nothing to be ashamed of. And no matter what, there will always be someone who will understand and can help.
When I was first contacted back in February about taking part in a filmmaking project for the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival 2018, I couldn't believe my luck. Aberdeen City school librarians have got funding for a 'Shelf Help' for mental health and wellbeing project from the Scottish government School Library Improvement Fund; driven by both the national and local priorities for health and wellbeing in the Year of Young People 2018. We have been busy developing the range of mental health resources held in our libraries. What we really needed was a way to raise awareness of mental health issues and promote the fiction and non-fiction resources available to young people; taking part in this project was ideal.
Twenty three pupils from our Into Film Club (mainly S1s with a few S2s in the mix) were joined by 16 pupils from Kincorth Academy accompanied by their club leader, Alan Clark. Our session was led by filmmaker Yasmin Al-Hadithi and Kirsty Gallacher from Into Film Scotland.
In the morning session Yasmin first asked pupils to rate how they felt about the mental health issues facing young people, this got everyone thinking and talking from the start. Then it was film time, and we all sat down to watch and rate a range of different films: documentaries, sound bites, short films, and animation. Some were pretty straightforward; others relied on symbolism and imagery to get their message across. The pupils really enjoyed this and their comments on the films they watched showed awareness and insight.
The pupils worked with green screen technology as well as learning about the 5-4-3-2-1 filmmaking technique, light box animation and animation using clay modelling, and discussed a broad range of mental health issues.
It was a great success and the feedback from pupils I've received has been very positive: "I learned that mental health issues are very common and that we must support and help those with them", said one pupil.
I'm planning on sharing the film with other Aberdeen schools to help them promote their mental health and wellbeing collections. I also hope to show it at our ASG Health group's Know More parental engagement event in September.
I learned that mental health is not something you can always see. I do feel more aware of mental health issues.Pupil, after attending Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival
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