The Animated Minds project has taken personal testimonies of mental distress and created a series of engaging, animated short films, to give the audience a greater understanding of how it feels to live with mental health difficulties.
Many people in the mental health system may not feel in control of their story. The filmmaking process offers filmmakers the chance to work with their own stories and regain some control and agency over their own life narrative.
Personal experiences of mental health
The series of films focus on experiences of bipolar disorder, psychosis, panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorders, deliberate self-harm, obsessive compulsive disorder and the social distress experienced by young people affected by Asperger’s syndrome.
The use of animation as a story-telling medium emerged naturally during filming. Plasticine is malleable and much easier to ‘direct’ than an actor – though ‘it can get quite crafty, sometimes’ (filmmaker Irene). It offers participants some control over their storytelling, and encourages a mindful focus on taking small steps.
Andy Glynne, Producer/Director, explained the collaborative process:
“After we identified individuals who wanted to talk about their experiences, we recorded interviews with them, which were then edited down to create a short narrative rich in visual metaphors… we know that we can never fully understand or know what it feels like to actually experience some of the difficulties covered in these films, but − as far as metaphors go − we felt we could begin to all work together to help inform people and get them to think more about what it means to have a mental health problem. This was our ambition and we hope, when watching the films, you feel we have succeeded.”
How the Animated Minds project has helped participants
Irene says, ‘It’s the best therapy I’ve ever had in my life, and I’ve had quite a lot of different therapies throughout my life, at different times. It’s given me the chance to cleanse my body from all the pain and suffering I’ve given myself.’
Filmmaker Jenny says, ‘It was a continuation of thinking about difficulties in a creative manner, instead of an overwhelming, self-destructive way.’
The Animated Minds films won the RTS Award for Best Educational Television and the BANFF Award for Best Animation. The films have been broadcast on Channel 4 and Teachers TV and are also used by a variety of health and education-related organisations and by service users themselves, to describe their personal experience to others.
You can experience Animated Minds here.
This project was made possible with the help of people like you. If you’ve been inspired by this story, please consider making a donation to SLaM, to ensure people like Irene and Jenny can continue to find strength and hope.