CARING FOR PEOPLE WITH MENTAL ILL HEALTH FILM

We set up a steering group which agreed this aim: to describe the challenges which face carers of people with mental ill health and identify what more needs to be done to allow them to play a full part in the recovery of those they care for.

John Bettridge,

Coordinator of Rethink York Group

John Bettridge, Coordinator of Rethink - York Group and Chair of the film’s steering group describes how the film came to be made, how the Group tackled it and some of the challenges that arose. 

The story began early this year when the person who was working on a new Online Recovery College for Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV) suggested that our carers’ group should make a film for its new Online Recovery College web site. To us this looked like a good opportunity to help make a difference to services and care and we agreed to do it. We realised that it would be a challenge because none of us had any experience of film-making, however, several of our carers had taken part in various training sessions and were very good at describing what carers do and the challenges they face.  

We set up a steering group which agreed this aim: “to describe the challenges which face carers of people with mental ill health and identify what more needs to be done to allow them to play a full part in the recovery of those they care for”. The target audience for the film was also agreed. We were very pleased that the Head of Mental Health Nursing York and Selby agreed to join the steering group.

We then looked at all the films we could find on caring and decided that we wanted a film that not only looked in depth at some of the challenges carers face but also gave a clear message about what more needs to be done to help and involve them. It soon became clear that there were several balances to be struck. One of these was the need, on the one hand, to be frank and honest about the challenges carers face (in order to retain credibility with carers) but, on the other hand, to adopt a constructive and positive approach, so that staff would be prepared to engage with us. 

We decided to base the film on stories told by our carers which looked in turn at the following: the early signs of mental illness (and the bewilderment that carers often face at that stage); the challenges for carers that often occur later; the involvement (or more importantly, the non-involvement) of carers in discussions about care; and reflections by a carer on the lessons learned over many years as a carer.  

We chose Digifish a York based film company to make the film with us and once a contract was signed, we asked our carers for volunteers to take part. We were amazed that 13 of our carers volunteered – a number which later came down to 9 for various reasons. Digifish set up a studio in our regular meeting room and filming took place over a whole day.

There were no scripts for the interviews because these needed to be spontaneous but we had discussed with interviewees the issues they particularly wanted to talk about and agreed the questions and prompts that would be used “off camera”. At the end of the filming day we had over 100 minutes of footage which had to be edited down to about 15 minutes - a daunting task which called for the burning of a lot of midnight oil!      

A problem for us from the beginning was that there wasn’t any money for the project but TEWV quickly chipped in £400 to get us started. Our original estimate was that our film would be about 5 minutes long and cost about £1500. However, once detailed planning started, it was clear that to do justice to the subject would mean making a 15-minute film which would cost about £3500 – a sum which we would have to raise. We were very encouraged that the Rethink Get Together Fund, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Two Ridings Community Foundation were not only prepared to fund us but backed us enthusiastically. We were also part-funded by the partnership of the Rethink - York Group and the York Carers Centre the organisations which support our Carers’ Group.

We were delighted that the film was shown to the York Health & Wellbeing Board at a special meeting and it has been used at local training sessions. We hope that other Rethink groups will find it useful. A big question for us throughout the project was – will it make a difference? Well, we are not naïve enough to suppose that our film on its own will achieve a great deal but used together with other initiatives e.g. the Triangle of Care project, we very much hope it will help to make a difference.

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