When we were first approached by the BBC around 18 months ago about a mental health season they were planning we had mixed feelings about the idea.
On one hand we really welcome anything that gets people talking about mental health and breaking down the stigma around the subject is hugely welcomed but our reservations were around the actual channel that was known for controversial programming in order to attract a largely ‘youth’ audience.
From the beginning we were determined to work alongside the channel to ensure that whatever made it to screen was done as sensitively and accurately as possible.
BBC 3 were really good at keeping us informed
Our initial fears were thankfully short lived BBC 3 were really good at keeping us informed through meetings, emails and phone calls. In the early stages we did a lot of brainstorming with the channel over the issues that we thought were important and relevant for a younger audience.
They let us know when they had general themes for the series, what shows they were looking at including (and responded by dropping one particular show that we had real concerns about) and then when it got nearer to the season the marketing, dates and detailed breakdowns of each show.
We also worked alongside a number of the production companies
As well as working with the channel we also worked alongside a number of the production companies. At the beginning of the commissioning process we were inundated with requests from production companies who were sure they had the winning formula or even those who wanted to pick our brains for ideas to take to the channel. As soon as there were some firm commissions we were able to help with research, information and recruitment of contributors to the shows.
We also provided all the production companies with a copy of our media guidelines asking them to pay particular attention to the advice about working with contributors. They seemed to take this to heart and we have had some glowing reports back from our media volunteers who made the final edit. We heard from one contributor who had seen the final footage that he was in after a researcher made the round trip from Manchester to Bristol just to show him. Another told us that the production team had been in touch on a regular basis to check how she was feeling about the process she commented that:
The experience has been really good and the production team have been so friendly and helpful. Normally it would be very hard to open up to strangers about these issues but Sarah (the woman who was in contact with me) was so kind and I really felt like she understood. She also kept me updated regularly on what was needed and how the filming was going.
'Don’t Call Me Crazy’ is hard hitting and difficult to watch in places
It was with excitement but some trepidation that we attended a launch event for the season last week with a screening of the first show ‘Don’t Call Me Crazy’ as well as highlights from all the other shows. Thankfully we came away really pleased with the season overall. ‘Don’t Call Me Crazy’ is hard hitting and difficult to watch in places but it also features some incredible young people and has some messages of recovery and hope as well as humour amongst the darkness.
The highlight for me was some as great footage of the young people talking about the discrimination they face because of their mental health problems. The rest of the shows offer a good selection of people, subjects and treatments and we really hope that it will achieve what it has set out to do, to get young people talking about mental health and to challenge stigma in this age group.