Mental health on record

New film from the National Archives.

The Education and Outreach team at The National Archives will soon release ‘Mental Health on Record’, a stop-motion animation film made by a group of young people which explores how contemporary views on mental health can be used to interpret historical records on the subject. Inspired by mental health records from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the project was co-led by filmmaker Nigel Kellaway (pictured, left), in partnership with Richmond Borough Mind and Jon Bartlett, a mental health first-aid consultant.

The film focuses on the ‘hidden’ stories of individuals in their collection and explores their personal experiences of mental health. The documents originate from a range of sources including the Prison Commission, Central Criminal Court and the War Office. These documents demonstrate how perceptions of mental health issues have changed over time and use language like ‘lunatic’, ‘hysterical’ and ‘eccentric’ to describe individuals experiencing mental health difficulties.

A key aspect of the project was the creative and emotional journey the young participants took during the film-making process last August. While the film is rooted in the historical documents, working with Mind and Jon gave the contributors an opportunity to speak candidly about their own mental wellbeing. One participant drew upon a session with Mind to animate the ‘five ways to wellbeing’, highlighting the parallels between contemporary experiences and the stories depicted in the records.

The film will become available on the National Archives website on 19 February, alongside a selection of learning resources.

Read more about it in this blog.

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