Faces of Mental Health is a short film created by award-winning documentary filmmaker Arthur Cauty. The film features students from Bristol who speak to the camera about their experiences of mental illness and suicide. The purpose of the film is to combat mental health stigma and encourage an open dialogue about young people’s mental health struggles.
Cauty – who is from Bristol – was inspired to make Faces of Mental Health after finding out about the high numbers of people dying by suicide in the city. Since 2016, it is believed that at least 13 students in Bristol have taken their lives. Cauty himself has lost someone to suicide and understands that mental illness is still viewed in a negative light by the public and by individuals who are suffering. So he decided to create a film that challenged this. Cauty asked several students from the University of Bristol and University of West England to talk openly about their experiences of depression, anxiety, OCD, substance abuse, and suicide.
One of the students who featured in the film was Claire Jenna, who has suffered from depression from an early age. She attempted suicide when she was just 11. Jenna said:
“We should be able to open up without being scared. I kept it to myself. People should understand it’s OK to feel depressed. Everybody is going to be depressed at some time in their life. It’s up and down, you have to keep going.”
Young People and Their Mental Health
At the end of Faces of Mental Health, two statistics are highlighted: one student dies by suicide every four days in the UK, and suicide is the number one cause of death for young people. Which are both alarming figures.
In universities across the country, students are grappling with extremely challenging mental health issues. Some students in Faces of Mental Health note that moving away from home, not knowing anyone, academic pressure, and the expectation to be having the best time of your life can all contribute to poor mental health. Going to university can leave students feeling isolated and without a support network. Part of the reason for young people’s declining mental health at university may come down to a lack of mental health provisions. But the difficulty for young people to open up and get help in the first place is also a factor. One of the messages of the film is that support is out there, if not at university, then at least from friends and family.
It takes a lot of bravery to talk about one’s experience of mental illness. Doing so can involve feelings of nervousness, worry, awkwardness, embarrassment, and shame. After all, being open like this involves showing a high degree of vulnerability. What Faces of Mental shows, however, is that going through mental illness and opening up about is a positive experience. It can help you to unburden yourself from the pain that you’ve kept locked away, as well as realise that you’re not alone in your struggles. Also, when you talk to others about your mental health, you give others the opportunity to respond with empathy, which can be one of the greatest sources of relief when you’re suffering.
When you see people telling their mental health story, with raw honesty, this can have a big impact on your perception of mental illness. Young people all over the world are struggling with their mental health but films like Faces of Mental Health can inspire others to open up and get help when they need it.