From strangers to friends

A short film project, “Personal Journeys of stigma and recovery,” made by the Blackrock Hall Men’s Group in Cork and the HSE South Lee Mental Health Services, was the joint winner of the 2017 HMI Leaders Award. Maureen Browne reports.

Conor Crowley and Leona Moynihan, HSE South Lee Mental Health Services, Blackrock Hall Primary Care Centre Project “ Personal Journeys of Stigma and Recovery – A short film project by the Blackrock Hall Men’s Group’ L to R Patrick Minihane, Thomas McDonald, Leona Moynihan, tony Desmond, Declan Desmond, Conor Crowley.
Conor Crowley and Leona Moynihan, HSE South Lee Mental Health Services, Blackrock Hall Primary Care Centre Project “ Personal Journeys of Stigma and Recovery – A short film project by the Blackrock Hall Men’s Group’ L to R Patrick Minihane, Thomas McDonald, Leona Moynihan, tony Desmond, Declan Desmond, Conor Crowley.

The film was written and filmed by the Blackrock Hall Men’s Group, with the supervision of filmmaker, Colm Walsh.

In the film, the men explored stigma and the ways in which social groups could help on a practical level in relation to this stigma.

The Blackrock Hall Men’s Group is part of the Blackrock Hall Primary Care Centre Project.
The project was presented to the National Judges by Leona Moynihan an Occupational Therapist and Conor Crowley, an adult mental health social worker, both with the South Lee mental health services.

In the film, the men explored stigma and the ways in which social groups could help on a practical level in relation to this stigma.

They said the project was started in summer of 2015, when a gap was identified in the service for men who were socially isolated and lacked a men’s support group in the locality.
The purpose was to have a peer focused/non-judgemental, safe space for service users in a supportive environment and an out of hours social inclusion group.

The Group is now run twice yearly, in summer and winter. It takes place in the evening time when other services are closed and in deciding activities, the financial constraints of group members is considered.

A focal project was identified for both summer and winter sessions. These projects included a Christmas hamper project, a garden restoration project, a Christmas fete and film project.

It was decided that for the winter of 2016- 2017 they would concentrate on a film project.
Funding was made available with the support of the multi-disciplinary team and film maker, Colm Walsh whom they knew from previous arts and minds projects was contacted and agreed to oversee the project.

A series of four workshops were organised. Group members took ownership of filming/sound and script under the guidance of Colm Walsh and group facilitators.
The initial project was completed within four months. It is titled, “Stigma a Personal Experience.”

“There was an overwhelmingly positive response. The film was used in forums such as carers’ groups and hearing voices groups within the local area,” Leona and Conor told the National Judging Panel.

“It provides a local prospective of service users’ lived experience of stigma, Group member felt empowered to tell their story and it was a powerful confidence building exercise.
“A second film was agreed upon due to the positive completion of the first. The objective was to build on the first film and to focus on recovery and innovative community mental health projects as illustrated in this film. This film was titled “Strangers to Friends. The road to recovery.”

“Again, funding made available and film maker, Colm Walsh again facilitated the Group.”
“This time a video diary format was agreed, which would illustrate the journey to recovery.  This was filmed over the course of summer 2017.”

“It captured a variety of activities and local images and was a combination of audio and visual imagery as in the first film.  It promoted positive participation in a social context.”