Some of you may already have set your Sky boxes to record for Wednesday night (and not just for the Apprentice final), as BBC 3 presents another programme in their 'It's A Mad World' mental health season. Diaries of a Broken Mind. Some of you will be refusing to watch anything that has the words 'mad' or 'crazy' or 'broken mind' in it. I wouldn't blame you, I think I would be the same... If I wasn't in it, of course.
Over the course of 6-8 months, 25 young people with mental health disorders were asked to film their lives, for a groundbreaking documentary. In January of 2013, I was one of those people to be asked. At first, I couldn't think of anything worse than putting an iPhone in front of my face, especially during my worst moments. However, after speaking with the production team at Firecracker Films, I instantly felt at ease. This was going to help a lot of people, of course I wanted to be involved.
"Minds Like Ours"
We were told that the film would be called Mind Like Ours (great title, huh?), we'll come back to that. Some of us would have their initial, self-filmed interview shown and others would be asked to continue filming their daily lives, their story. I started running through all of the positive outcomes from taking part in a documentary like this; people would begin to understand, people could get help, people would feel less ashamed to talk about it. It was everything I had wanted since I first started campaigning for mental health awareness.
And so I filmed. I filmed my worst moments and I filmed the moments where I felt happy about something positive that had happened, during my struggle with agoraphobia. I filmed my boyfriend, my friends, my family and everyone else who wanted to have their say about mental health (or who just wanted a minute in front of the camera). Each video was sent to Firecracker Films and each time I would get feedback from the team. I felt elated, it was like some very bizarre kind of therapy, where I wasn't technically talking to anyone (yet).
"My Mad Diary?!"
Around three months later, I made the decision to stop filming. Life was moving forward and there were things I needed to concentrate on at home. Not long after that I got an e-mail from the production team. "The BBC were going to change the title to My Mad Diary, what does everyone think?" My heart sunk. What did I think?! I thought it was bloody well absurd, that's what I thought. The typing fingers came out in force and I wrote quite possibly the longest e-mail of my life. Here we were, 25 people trying to break down the stigma of mental health, being called mad. It was laughable.
A week later we all got another e-mail from Firecracker; "How about Diaries of a Broken Mind?" Well, it was the lesser of two evils that's for sure. And actually, it had quite a nice ring to it. The production team wanted us to think of it as mental health being just 'like a broken leg'. That made sense, I could deal with that. The next e-mail was confirmation of the title and the breaking news that the adverts were now being aired. Oh God. My face. On TV. Oh no!
All of a sudden the panic, anxiety, sickness and pure fear hit me. What the hell was I doing? Could I back out now? What if people laughed or called me fat or thought I was an idiot? That's when something amazing happened, as if by magic, I got a friend request from another one of the contributors. Then I found another one and added her, then another added me.
Within a couple of days I had five new friends, all who had the same fears as me. Jess, one of the contributors, said to me in a private message, "I'm sure I'm not the only one of us who filmed that's concerned about the aftermath, but fingers crossed we get a good a supportive reception!" I had asked her about her thoughts and feelings, I was glad to know I wasn't the only one!
"Warts and all"
All of them had felt the same about the title being changed. In fact Kiera-Rose, another contributor, put a video together about the subject. She was p****d off! With good reason, too. Sophie was horrified that the BBC had tried changing the title, without our consent. Her thoughts? "The term "mad" is incredibly old fashioned and insulting, the whole point of the doc is to break stereotypes so by using "mad" defeated the object." Exactly!
But, it's not all bad. Abby, who writes her thoughts and feelings down in her blog, said something that really struck a chord with me, "As a human being, I don't want to have to hide or be ashamed of who I am, or where I've come from, and I hope that by speaking out here today, I can be accepted as the person I am." She is such a beautiful person and I know that people will accept her, learn from her and see her as an inspiration.
Just like every single one of the 25 contributors. We've all set out to make a difference to the world of mental health, or as Tilly said to me, "to help raise awareness of mental health, giving a first-hand view - warts and all." Warts indeed!
Make sure you do check out Diaries of a Broken Mind, Wednesday 17th July, 9pm on BBC 3. (Or record it if you're watching The Apprentice. Boo hiss)!
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