Mental Health Awareness
Towards the end of 2015 WAYout made a film about one of our most talented artists- Mash P- who is also an ex child combatant. Mash was struggling to come to terms with his past and was finding peace through his music. Mash went to meet those who knew him just after the war in an attempt reconcile himself to his past and the film was broadcast on BBC World and has been in several international festivals.
WAYout ran the first mental illness film competition and pitching forum in November 2013, to raise awareness of mental health issues. This was a pioneering project for Sierra Leone and many street youth had never heard of it. Two of the films were in the Opun Yu Yi Human Rights Film Festival and one, ‘My Side‘, won best documentary prize and was shown at the Mental health conference organised by The Mental Health Commission.
Since then we assisted in the shooting of King’s College London’s four short films about mental health.
Sometimes WAYout members have serious mental health problems but cannot afford treatment or treatment is not available. One member found himself chained up in a church hospital and on his release recorded “Psycho Yard” about the experience.
Sierra Leone’s only psychiatrist (officially retired) has been heard to say that 80% of Sierra Leoneans have a mental illness and yet there is very little knowledge or understanding of what that means.
We ran a discussion group and showed short films from around the world on mental health themes. Entrants were asked to write a proposal for a short film under 10 minutes long, it could be drama, animation or documentary.
Ten shortlisted entries were then asked to pitch their idea, in three minutes, to a panel (another first). There were two winners- Catherine Kadie Musa-Kormayea for her short ‘I am bi-polar’ and Steven Tommy for his documentary ‘Raw’ about long term drug addiction. The winners received 500,000 leones (£75) and the chance to make their films.
Choosing the winners was tough and we are encouraging others to also make their films- with our support- so that we have several shorts about mental health to enter into festivals and get on to SLBC and keep the conversation going about mental health.