A Fife director is hoping to release a new film with a focus on coping with depression over the festive season in time for Christmas 2019.
‘Cold’, which has been written and produced by Kirkcaldy film maker Gavin Hugh, is being filmed in locations across Kirkcaldy, Stirling, Edinburgh and Aviemore, with two days of filming already in the can.
It is a huge personal undertaking for Gavin, who has previously worked for STV and Sky News and has been running his own Kirkcaldy-based video production business, MidgieBite Media, since late 2017 while also working part time at the Scottish Parliament as an assistant to Dundee City East MSP Shona Robison.
However, with the production funded through goodwill and his own pocket so far, Gavin and his team plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign early this year to help finish the film and release it in winter 2019.
“For a lot of us, Christmas is a happy time of year where we can celebrate and put all of our troubles to one side but for people suffering with depression it can be incredibly difficult to do that,” Gavin explained.
“We focus on how the pressure of trying to take part in the festivities and putting on a brave face just isn’t something that can be easily switched on and off in time with the days on a calendar.
“Taking care of your own mental health is easy to overlook. I’ve had my own issues with anxiety over the years, and some of the people that I’m closest to in my life have suffered from depression.
“Mental health issues can be challenging not just for the individual but for the people around them who are trying to offer support.
“As this film is drawing on a lot of personal experiences, it’s really important for me that our film gives an honest portrayal of these issues.
“While there’s an increasing awareness of mental health issues in mainstream society, we’re really hoping that the film can help encourage people to still be mindful of them at this time of year.”
Gavin has been involved in a lot of local film projects over the years, particularly with horror filmmakers Hex Media, and has recently been working closely with Robbie Davidson on his upcoming World War Two epic ‘Dick Dynamite’.
Most of the primary cast for Cold are Fifers, including Andrew Gourlay, Hana Mackenzie, Craig Seath and Iain Leslie, as are most of the technical crew.
Lead actress Rowan Birkett, a friend of Gavin’s from student days at Stirling University, has been travelling up from Ambleside in England to take part, while Dundee is also represented in Grant R Keelan, a city-based photographer who acts in the film as well as working in the technical team.
“It’s genuinely been great to work with so many talented local artists,” he added.
More details about the crowdfunding campaign will be announced in due course, and the plan is to hold a premiere of the new film in Kirkcaldy later in the year.
A former Abertay University student has urged people struggling with mental health issues to speak out this Christmas after support given to her helped her graduate.
Laura Jackson graduated last month with a Masters in International Human Resource Management.
It was a proud achievement for the 23 year-old, who says it wouldn’t have happened without the support provided by Abertay’s Mental Health Advisor and Student Services team throughout her studies.
“A few years ago, I was at a really low point in my life. I had just started a business degree in Glasgow but, due to health and mental health issues, I felt so isolated that I dropped out after only a few weeks and had to go back to living with my mum,” she said.
“If you’d told me then that I’d soon be graduating with a Masters with Distinction, I would never have believed you.”
Throughout her three years at Abertay – two completing a BA in Business Management, and one at Masters level – Laura attended regular sessions with its mental health advisor David Cameron.
“Because I’d had a few months out after leaving Glasgow, when I started at Abertay I wanted to see what was available to help support my studies,” she said.
“The Advisory Service not only provided me with practical resources, including a study plan and a laptop with special dyslexia software that helped with my coursework but, because I’d informed them I had been diagnosed with anxiety, they also referred me to David.”
This ongoing support ended up being key to Laura’s progression through her degree as she engaged with the service when she felt overwhelmed juggling coursework deadlines, a part-time job and a spate of health issues, including an underactive thyroid and learning difficulties dyslexia, dyspraxia and dysgraphia.
“There were so many times, when things were tough and my mental health was suffering, that I was close to giving up,” she said.
“Knowing that support was there and available was what kept me going. Some of my friends have mental health issues of their own which meant they weren’t always able to help when I needed them. David was a constant.”
Following Graduation, Laura has moved back to Glasgow and is currently an intern at a women-only HR practice, while she thinks about her next move.
By sharing her story, Laura hopes she can help inspire others to keep going, even when mental health issues try to stand in their way.
Laura said: “My advice to anyone out there who feels like I did is to not put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect. Speak to someone, get a study plan and let people help you. You’re not letting anyone down by focusing on yourself now and again.”
Abertay’s Mental Health Advisor, David Cameron, said: “I am pleased I have been able to contribute a little and help Laura. She had a lot to cope with, both with her physical health and mental health, therefore her achievements deserve great credit.”
A number of organisations will be available over the festive period for those seeking support or help:
Breathing Space Scotland – provides telephone counselling. Open: Weekdays – Monday to Thursday 6pm to 2am; Weekend -Friday 6pm to Monday 6am. Their phone number is 0800 83 85 87.
Insights Counselling – a counselling services that provides confidential, non-judgemental, 1-2-1 counselling by appointment. For further details you can phone 01382-305706 or visit them online.
Samaritans – provides a 24/7, 365 day a year telephone service – Their phone number is 116 123 or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The most magical time of the year? TV adverts show perfectly joyful families, and Facebook posts give the impression that Christmas for everyone else is a blissful utopia of laughter, games, roaring fires and food that looks like Nigella just cooked it.
The reality for many is quite different. One in ten people feel unable to cope at Christmas, and this increases to a staggering one in three for people with a mental health condition. Worries about money, loneliness, and stress and anxiety over the pressure to have that ‘perfect’ Christmas are common.
I’ve found the last few years pretty difficult – a huge pressure to make everyone happy and ‘get it right’ on a limited budget as a single parent, together with the inevitable post-Christmas self-reflection. So much so that on the 28th December last year, I was minutes away from ending my life and ended up in the care of the mental health crisis team.
Here’s my alternative festive to-do list for a mentally healthy holiday season:
1) Let go of all expectations and don’t even try to make it ‘perfect’
This year I’m just going to ‘be’ rather than ‘try’. So what if I don’t get round to cleaning the patio doors? (I just laughed as I wrote this, that’s so not going to happen). So what if I forget gift tags? (I can improvise). So what if some people don’t want to join in family games? You’ll find that if you let go you will end up having a less anxious time than usual anyway. If anything goes wrong, so be it. Accept it and move on.
2) Don’t overdo it on gifts, food or alcohol
Finances are more difficult than ever this year for so many, overspending is common, debt increases stress. Drinking alcohol exacerbates many mental health conditions. So much of the food and silly gifts we buy at Christmas ends up in a landfill. Make sure you eat healthily and don’t feel the need to fill the fridge with food you will likely end up throwing away. Instead, why not give some gifts of your quality time in the form of a Christmas ‘cheque’?
3) Be kind to yourself and make self-care a priority
Make a pact to not beat yourself up for anything this Christmas. If you need to take time out alone to read a book, or have a soak in the bath, do it. Remember in a plane crash you are instructed to put your own oxygen mask on first before your child’s, so you are more able to help them. Self-care is the same as doing this.
4) Keep active and go outside every day for at least five minutes
I’ve found over Christmas that some years I can go days without spending any time outdoors or being active. Exercise is key for keeping mentally healthy (I’m not suggesting going for a ten mile run on Christmas morning, that’s pretty hardcore) but make it a priority to get outside for a walk in a park or garden for at least five minutes. This scientific study proves that even that short time is optimal for reducing stress and anxiety.
5) Take just one minute several times a day to deep breathe
Doing good definitely does you good. Giving time to others has a huge impact on our own self-esteem and mental well-being, as well as benefitting the recipient. Go visit an elderly neighbour or offer to help at the local food bank with packing or deliveries.
7) Ask for support and talk about how you feel as soon as you feel low
Don’t put on a brave face. Don’t assume people are too busy to listen over Christmas. If you need to talk to friends or family, do so. Don’t be ashamed of saying you feel anxious, depressed or overwhelmed – it’s common and the more we all talk about it, the easier it will be. For crisis support for yourself or someone you may be concerned about, see your GP, go to your local A&E dept, or contact the Samaritans on 116 123.
8) Get in touch with people you don’t see often
This doesn’t have to be in person if this will add to your overwhelm and to-do list. Text or email someone to let them know you are thinking of them, and it will make you feel better too.
9) Don’t feel guilty about saying no
If you are tired and can’t face another social invite, don’t be afraid to say no. Equally, don’t isolate yourself either. Think carefully about your reasons. Am I hesitant to go because I feel under-confident, and as if I will be a burden? How many times have I socialised over the Christmas period already? Am I just tired? Think mental health first, always.
10) Remember what’s important and practice gratitude
Write down three things every morning that your grateful for. This could be as simple as the way your daughter told her Christmas cracker joke, or the Michael Buble song on the radio. Remember what’s important to you this time of year, and put peace and mental health at the top of the list.
At a time of year when most people are enjoying themselves there are many who cannot join in, but despite the challenges services face, help is available.
Christmas is a time for joy, celebration and bringing together family and friends to share this merriment. While taking nothing away from this much needed festivity, spare a thought for those who are less advantaged – particularly those with mental health problems.
Mental illness transcends all ages and backgrounds. Almost one in four adults have a mental illness at some point in their lives, such as stress, anxiety, depression or psychosis.
An individual’s emotional health can also have a great impact on physical health, and poor mental health can lead to problems such as alcohol and drug abuse.
And so, at a time when the rest of the nation is busy celebrating, there are many who just cannot, rather than will not, be able to do so because of their mental ill health. Indeed their inability to join in on the fun can exacerbate their isolation.
The environment we live in plays a crucial role in the genesis of mental illness. Austerity is certainly not good for mental health; it affects those in lower income brackets, and those at particular risk of mental disorders, the hardest. Public spending cuts have hit some of the most vulnerable sections of society – those in receipt of social care or on pension credits, and disabled and unemployed people.
So where might someone go, if their mental health is failing? NHS commissioning for mental health services has been nothing short of a disaster and an abject failure in many places.
But here’s the double whammy. In austere times, commissioners do not pump more money into the system; rather they tend to raid mental health budgets to plug the growing deficits in the acute hospital sector.
Despite the crucial importance of mental health services, they have always been the poor relation in any health system in general and the NHS in particular. These services, which are underfunded, demoralised and struggling with demand, are not to be seen and preferably not to be heard.
This may sound dramatic, but the reality is that there has been long-term neglect in addressing the many problems that most NHS mental services and their patients are faced with – access to timely appointments, access to local beds, services that are joined up and in one place like other NHS services are, and enough doctors and nurses in the system. The list goes on.
The scale of the mental health challenge has been underestimated. NHS England has set out its plan for achieving recommendations made in its Five Year Forward View for Mental Health (pdf) to improve mental healthcare by 2020-21. It has committed to transforming mental health services with an extra £1bn a year. Those at the coalface know this is yesterday’s money – demand is ever increasing, and the historic deficit in funding can only be addressed if politicians and senior managers can have frank conversations.
Back to Christmas then. Though this is a challenging time for those with mental illnesses, statutory and voluntary organisations are there to support these individuals and therefore it is vitally important to ask for help.
Despite the pressures on the system, services are there for those who need urgent help or are facing a crisis – the doors won’t close to them.
And for those with less serious issues, there are measures that can be taken without resorting to statutory and voluntary services. Family, friends and individuals can watch out for abnormal behaviour, such as panic attacks, and try to restore calmness by getting away from noisy, busy places and doing breathing exercises.Avoid having an argument, the tension will almost certainly ease.
Finding a place for shelter, a warm meal, and ensuring youngsters are protected are not impossible goals, though at times it might seem like that.
Depression and stress can make one unnecessarily pessimistic, although simple measures such as not indulging in alcohol and drugs or spending within means can reduce the plight of those who are not in a good place.
An uplifted spirit will bring back that joy and hope, and trigger off a feelgood factor that can be the springboard to happiness. Good mental health brings with it a whole lot of goodies in Santa’s stocking, because after all, physical fitness and wealth are meaningless without it. And let’s hope Santa has something for struggling mental health services.