DOCS TO WATCH: MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK
Under the current circumstances of isolation and uncertainty, this year's Mental Health Awareness Week feels more important than ever.
There are a wealth of different ways that documentaries can address mental health issues, from examining the science, to raising awareness about the impacts of mental illness, and in some cases de-mystifying what can so often remain hidden or mis-represented conditions. Docs can do wonders for our understanding and our empathy.
This list of feature-length docs to watch online includes first person accounts of mental illness from both the sufferers and from the families of love ones who have suffered. And over here you can explore some more bite-sized shorts.
If you are affected by any of the issues in these films, please remember you do not need to struggle alone. If you or someone you know needs support, there are organisations that can help. We've listed some below.
IDA'S DIARY / August B. Hanssen / 2014
Ida Storm is a young Norwegian woman whose life is a series of great highs and deep lows.
After several painful years of being tossed around the mental health system, trying to balance and self-medicate, she turned to an escalating lifestyle full of drugs, alcohol and self-harm. Now in her late 20s, she has been diagnosed with emotionally unstable (borderline) personality disorder.
Using her own camera, she has captured the last eight years of her turbulent life in an unflinchingly honest video diary - a means to ease her mind and structure her thoughts. Through excerpts from this diary, the film offers an insight into a world of fear and anxiety that is punctuated with everyday victories and self-discoveries.
Increasingly, Ida succeeds in conquering her misery and breaking the shackles of mental illness - we witness her struggle towards self-acceptance and a renewed appreciation of life.
Ida’s Diary is a film about hope, about finding your own identity and about daring to live.
Watch IDA's DIARY on IDFA
MINDING THE GAP / Bing Liu / 2018
Bing Liu's Oscar-nominated film follows three childhood friends from Rockford, Illinois, in the American Rust Belt. They each came from troubled homes, and between them, they find escape and solace in skateboarding.
This hugely compassionate, beautifully made autobiographical doc follows the three skateboarders through every graze and tumble of their hard-knock lives, as some painful home truths emerge.
Their stories become a symbol of an economically challenged society, stuck in a cycle of domestic abuse; and the fact that the things you love can hurt you the most becomes ever more clear.
Their close friendships and ability to escape through the love of skateboarding are truly inspirational.
IRENE'S GHOST / Iain Cunningham / 2018
This British indie gem shows the incredible power of animation in doing justice to the experiences of mental health that film can't always capture.
Both a moving account of the effect that repressed truths can have in a family and a powerful portrait of the devastating impact of post-partum psychosis, this documentary shines a light on a hugely under-addressed aspect of mental health.
Irene died before Iain Cunningham was old enough to form memories of her. The layers of silence surrounding her death were so tightly bound that it has taken him decades to broach the topic with his father.
Finally ready to investigate the hole in his life, Cunningham encounters long-lost relatives and Irene’s best friend, Lynn, getting to know his mother through the stories they tell: life in Nuneaton in the 1970s; factory work and living for nights at the Co-op Hall and holidays.
Like putting pieces of a puzzle together, Irene’s personality comes to life.
Bertha DocHouse hosted a director Q&A watch it here.
HUNTING FOR HEDONIA / Pernille Rose Grønkjær / 2019
What if there was a place deep in the brain that can take you from pain to pleasure? What if tiny pulsing electrodes in your head could change your mind?
Hunting for Hedonia explores the effects of a revolutionary technique employed by leading neuroscientists called Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS); the implementation of a device that sends out electric impulses to manipulate parts of the brain.
First explored by pioneers in the 1960s, the treatment has led to incredible progress in treating illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease, severe depression and eating disorders.
But what future lies ahead for the human mind when we start tampering with our brain and emotions?
EVELYN / Orlando von Einsiedel / 2019
Director Orlando von Einsiedel turns the camera on himself in this deeply personal film, as he and his siblings embark on a journey in remembrance of their brother, Evelyn, who took his own life over a decade ago.
Stunned by grief, the family buried the trauma and never talked about Evelyn after his death, until now, thirteen years on, they begin a trek through the British countryside that their brother loved. Joined en route by their parents and friends, for the first time the siblings begin to discuss the past and address the long-buried pain together.
Bravely bringing his personal life and grief in front of the camera, the Oscar-winning director of Virunga and The White Helmets takes us on a cathartic journey, which feels much more like a beginning than an ending, inviting us to consider not just the nature of grief and family dynamics, but the treatment of mental illness and the stigma of suicide.
Watch EVELYN on Netflix.
Bertha DocHouse hosted a Q&A with director Orlando von Einsiedel, his sister Gwennie von Einsiedel and producer Joanna Natasegara - watch it here.
Want to find out more about director Orlando von Einsiedel? Listen to his episode on our podcast DocHouse Conversations here.
MARWENCOL / Jeff Malmberg / 2010
Exploring the links between creativity and rehabilitation, Marwencol meets Mark Hogancamp, 15 years after an attack outside a bar left him in a coma for 9 days.
Suffering with brain damage, amnesia and the after effects of the trauma, Mark began to create a detailed miniature world in his back yard, constructing evocative scenes with personalised action men and barbies. Using the figures to play out scenarios in the safe arena of this toy world - epic battles, recreated memories, fears and fantasies - Hogancamp develops his own, very personal form of therapy.
When his extraordinary photographs from the world of 'Marwencol' come to light, he faces a whole new set of challenges, finding himself propelled out of his hidden world and into the public eye.
Watch MARWENCOL on iTunes.
Mental Health Support Organisations:
If you’re in crisis and need support, text ‘Evelyn’ to 85258. This crisis text line will connect you to chat with a trained volunteer via text message, with the aim of helping you through until you are in a calm, safe place.
You can text free and anonymously from EE, O2, Vodafone 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.
The Samaritans operate a free 24 hour support line, which is available for anyone to call - you can talk to their phone line operators about any issue, no matter how big or small.
Call 116 123
THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST LIVING MISERABLY (CALM)
CALM help to provide support for men who are struggling with mental health or suicidal thoughts. Their free helpline is available from 5pm to midnight every day.
Call 0800 58 58 58
You can also visit the webchat page.
Mind provides advice and support to people with a mental health condition. They provide a free helpline for information, as well as a network of local services.
Call 0300 123 3393
RETHINK MENTAL ILLNESS
Rethink provide support and resources for people affected by mental health issues.