Three pupils in every class in secondary schools in England suffer from diagnosable mental health problems.
Last evening I attended the film premiere of 'SELFie where's the HARM?' featuring the dramatised stories of a number of young people, some of whom develop mental health problems. The glossy, honey-coloured exterior many of them present to the world was slowly pealed away. Underneath their brash public face we saw the raw loneliness, the hopeless self-denigration and the desperate need for someone to listen, to understand them and to reach out and offer a listening response.
The young actors brought authenticity and deep feelings to their performance. They spoke and acted with a genuineness that touched the audience. You cannot watch this film without being drawn into the plight of the young people portrayed. The searing confessions of the victims as they revealed their true state, underneath the bravado of public appearances made me want to reach out to them, to reassure them that I was listening and was there to help. That was all they wanted - someone to recognize their plight and to listen and walk with them.
The film was commissioned by Malvern Hills District Council and West Mercia/Warwickshire Police. The script was written by Jacquie McGonagle-Turner and was an adaptation of her successful stage production that has been touring schools in the West Midlands. The language is terse, realistic and spoken by the young without the interference of dogmatising or advice-giving adults. Jacquie has captured the victims’ voice and sends a powerful message about recognising the signs of mental health problems - particularly self harm, eating disorders and anxiety - and encouraging everyone to offer support.
The film was made by Sean Macreavy Media - http://www.seanmacreavy.com - with Sean Macreavy co-directing it with Jacquie. The visual and artistic excellence of the filming adds depth and quality to the script and intensifies the message.
Who could forget the scenes of the young people revealing their inner problems? The cameo of the young girl trying to justify her self-destructive actions to her reflection in the toilet mirror is a masterful use of visual imagery that increases the impact of the message.
The loneliness and isolation of the sufferers is so strongly pictured that you feel their anguish and are moved to go to them.
Fittingly, the premiere was shown in the Sixth Form Centre of St Benedict's Catholic High School in Alcester on World Mental Health Day, Tuesday 10th October. Most of the actors in the film are from Alcester but their message reaches far beyond the local area.
Jacquie and Sean are qualified and experienced educators. The film, which is available free to some schools and organisations and its accompanying lesson plans and learning materials will prove to be a valuable learning resource in schools and in the community. I doubt the film will need much in the way of directions for an able teacher, other than: show this film; reflect in the silence; let it speak for itself.
At a time when mental health funding is being diluted, diverted and distorted to pay for more dramatic issues in the health service, this film is a crucial reminder to parents, teachers and all those who work with the young to look beyond the surface and find the real SELF that may be cowering inside the shell they have constructed to defend themselves against the world we have created.
Reach out to these young people. Encourage them to share and find the people who care.
This film earns a rating of ten out of ten.
For further information about obtaining and using the film check out the website of http://www.seanmacreavy.com
(Photographs used with permission seanmacreavy.com)