In 2015, I went to the Cardiff University Winter School in Psychiatry. As second year medics, we had all just finished a two week psychiatry block and everyone was buzzing with enthusiasm about psychiatry.
Along with the networking and group sessions, we had some talks from individuals who had experience of mental illness. At this point I was having some of my own mental health problems and had been working very hard with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to feel better. I remember being sat in one of these talks and hanging on every word that was said. Although this individual’s illness had been far more severe than my own, I related to everything she was saying. The feeling that only my mind could fix me, but it was my mind that was broken. The need to express in some way how I was feeling and for people to really listen. The need for someone to acknowledge how hard I was working to feel better. This person felt the same. They understood. I wasn’t alone.
That was when I realised what a massive impact other people’s stories can have.
When Munzir Quraishy approached me about the idea of making a film for our Student Selected Component (SSC) in the third year, I immediately wanted to be involved. I have always wanted to learn more about the process behind film production and this gave me the opportunity to pursue two passions at once.
Although we initially wanted to focus on electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), we quickly realised that it would be best to focus on a broader topic to begin with. Mental health stigma seemed the obvious choice.
Munzir became the film lead for the Student Selected Component, recruiting patients through the National Centre for Mental Health (NCMH) and conducting preliminary interviews. I became the research lead and began applying for ethical approval and looking into stigma questionnaires we could give to medical students.
The Student Selected Component is a seven week long block at the end of the academic year, but we had a lot of work to do outside of that time period in order to complete our ambitious project. We were on full time hospital placement and at times it was a struggle, but we were both extremely passionate about making it work. We also had great support from our Student Selected Component supervisors, who we couldn’t have done this without.
By the time we reached the Student Selected Component period, pre-production was mostly complete. We spent the first two weeks filming, the third week editing and the last four weeks collecting and analysing our research data.
I was responsible for interviewing the four psychiatrists in the film, which meant that when it came to filming the three individuals with experience of mental illness I was able to just sit back and listen to their stories. It was an incredible experience. Mair, George and Laura all have such difficult stories to tell, but they tell them with such honesty and so openly. They are all so passionate about raising awareness of mental health that it has just made me even more passionate to do the same. I met some amazing people during the making of this film, some of whom I am still in close contact with now.
I am extremely proud of what we achieved in such a short space of time and continue to look for ways to raise awareness of mental health.
I am currently running an art competition with NCMH on the topic of mental health. The art will be displayed in an exhibit on Student Mental Health Day on March 2nd in the Haydn Ellis Building. I am very excited to see another project come to fruition and hope there will be many more to come.