By Katie Lauren-Finn – Deputy Features Editor
The 1 in 4 film festival occurred at UCLan on 5th October- 10th October, for its 9th year. Its aim is to raise awareness and educate people about mental health issues and to reduce/challenge the stigma, shame and discrimination around the fact that one in four of us suffer mental health. Originally the 1 in 4 film festival was exclusive to mental health but now it includes illnesses such as physical and learning disabilities, dementia, post-traumatic stress syndrome, alcohol addiction. Lisa Malihi-Shoja who is the COMENSUS Co-Ordinator said that introducing more issues such as homelessness and dementia into the film festival attracts a wider audience. Last week’s events coincided with Mental Health Awareness Day on Saturday 10th October which the film festival worked in conjunction with Preston’s Open Mind Festival to bring a day concentrated on entertainment and information.
UCLan gladly hosted the festival in the Mitchell and Kenyon Cinema, and are continuously devoted to raising awareness and challenging the stigma surround mental health such as doing the Healthy University initiative for ten years and as of recently they have increased the number of support staff available as this is a priority. The 1 in 4 festival was organised with the help of many staff, students, SUCAG (service user and carer advisory group) and COMNSUS (community engagement and service user support). Lucy Haigh; Campaigns Officer spoke at the opening of Tuesday’s event to enlighten the audience that UCLan are taking an active role such as providing mental health training to the accommodation team and security so that everyone in halls can feel safe. They want to promote looking after yourselves and your flatmates.
A live performance preceded 4 out of the 5 films that were shown by a company/organisation that is relevant to mental health and ended with a guest speaker. Lisa Malihi-Shoja commented that there is no live performance on Thursday so there can be a longer discussion. The film KPAXX will have subtitles as she is expecting a large amount of deaf students. This thoughtful idea conveys clearly that the people at COMENSUS do an amazing job of considering everyone’s needs. On Monday at 6:30pm, Dance Syndrome, ‘Dance led, Disability Inspired’ a registered charity who do amazing work led by those with disabilities performed an enthusiastic thought provoking dance which told a story. The Mayor, whom opened the festival, commented that it was very graceful and fantastic. Before the film started at 7pm the audience was welcomed by Peter Sullivan from the 1 in 4 film committee and Nigel Harrison the executive Dean of the College of Health and Wellbeing, which gave a friendly and welcoming feel to the evening. During the film there was lots of laughter but many tears accompanied that laughter. The film’s main themes were how death and grief are overcome when you talk about it and come together, it definitely tackled both physical and mental health.
Each of the events followed similarly to Monday’s opening night. Tuesday’s performance was live music from Michael Lawton followed by the film Song for Marion. Wednesday’s event began at 1pm with the film Cathy Come Home and the evening began with a live performance from Anti-stigma Band followed by a showing of Side Effects. Thursday’s film was KPAXX and Friday opened with live music from Pete Dougherty before As good as it gets was shown.
When the films ended there were discussions with a guest speaker. It was evident that the fact that the festival exists makes people think about mental health and gain better knowledge, both through the film and the ending discussion. At each event there was a feeling of belonging and togetherness as people spoke encouraging words and found out about organisations such as Dance Syndrome and Samaritans. The guest speaker at the end of each film is said to “contextualise the debate” and bring an “authentic voice” as said by Lisa Malihi-Shoja. She commented that the media glamorise mental health and create the stigma and discrimination surrounding it. To have someone there to talk to the audience who has lived with or has an involvement in mental health issues and “helps people be open about these issues“ and share experiences because you’re not alone, 1 in 4 people are affected. It portrays that there’s no reason to be ashamed or scared or judged as it’s real. The COMENSUS team commented that whilst depressions is becoming more widely accepted, any mention of illnesses such as schizophrenia and bi-polar are still grey areas but they’d like to overcome this eventually.
Peter Sullivan from COMENSUS and the film committee said that “the live performances definitely brings people together. The films and the discussion make people think more about mental health and this promotes discussion as most people won’t talk about it. It helps dispel the stigma surrounding mental health”. He said that this year’s turn out has been very successful with around 60 people attending Wednesday’s afternoon showing of Cathy Come Home, a film that deals with the struggles of homelessness. People in the audience actively joined in the discussion at the end of the film who volunteer/work for homeless shelters and other charities. As part of the film committee Peter has a large part in choosing which films are suitable. He also mentioned that in November 16 different charities are coming to UCLan to chat to students about the struggles highlighted by the film festival.