- by Lucy Smith
Public Health Manager – Mental Wellbeing
Lambeth & Southwark Public Health Directorate
London Borough of Southwark
Public health work in Lambeth and Southwark has always sought to include a programme improving mental wellbeing for all who live and work in the borough. This includes improving mental health literacy, increasing capacity in the community and workforce to do more to understand and work to promote and protect mental health and to influence policy and strategy across all areas. Brixton Reel is an outreach project as part of the wider programme.
Lambeth and Southwark have high levels of mental ill health with around 30-53,000 people aged 16-74 years old who could be suffering from common mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. In addition there are groups who do not have a diagnosable mental disorder but who score low on life satisfaction and wellbeing scales, such as people who have a disability, are unemployed or carers or in receipt of benefits.
Lambeth & Southwark have an ethnically diverse population with a large black and minority ethnic community, mostly black Caribbean or black African. There is also a large white Portuguese speaking population in Lambeth. In Southwark there is a Latin American community of mainly Spanish speakers.
The Brixton Reel Film Festival was first commissioned in 2009 by Public Health to promote positive mental health and wellbeing in African/African Caribbean communities and to help empower those communities to take action to take care of their own wellbeing.
It also seeks to use film as a medium to de-stigmatise the concept of mental health, promote and improve recovery and accessibility of services, such as local psychological therapies and to understand more about the experience of living in the borough for different communities.
The project is delivered in partnership with a range of partners (often smaller organisations) such as Telefono de la Esperanza, Amardeep and Carenet who provided outreach, staff time and venue space. It is thanks to the support of partners and match funding from the Maudsley Charity that the festival has grown and successfully reached its target communities .
In 2012 the festival expanded to include an event in Peckham for the first time. Six film events were held at local cinemas and community hubs with free food and entertainment and open to all. Representatives from the health community and volunteers engaged in talking to people about mental wellbeing.
‘Sing your Song’, about the life of the African-American singer and human rights activist, Harry Belafonte, was one film screened. A lively and informative panel discussion took place afterwards with social activists, historians and actors about how Harry’s life story exemplified the ‘five ways to wellbeing’.
A final event was held in March at a Portuguese restaurant with Fado singers. A previous festival included the screening of a short film, ‘Connect’ made by young people from St Martin’s Estate, Tulse Hill, who then had an opportunity to engage in a Q & A session and meet actors from the film ‘Attack the Block’. Other events included laughter yoga and bollywood dancing as well as short film to promote the link between physical activity and wellbeing.
Evaluation of last year’s festival recorded almost 800 people attending. Of those who completed evaluation forms (284), 84% said the events had increased their understanding of mental health and wellbeing, 65% had found out information about services that could help them, friends or family. Over two thirds (63%) said it had changed their view of people with mental health issues.
A fifth of the audience were White or White British with the majority being from target groups of black British/Caribbean or African background and 6% Asian. There was a cross cultural aspect to the festival with events being attended by African-Caribbean and Asian communities who may not socialize together in other circumstances. The festival also had radio coverage in the form of live debates on Colourful Radio and BBC Radio London’s Sunny and Shay Show.
Brixton Reel 2013 is funded by Lambeth CCG and London Borough of Southwark and will take place this November. For more information on this project or full evaluation report please email: email@example.com
Feedback about Brixton Reel:
“I’ve just moved to Brixton and it is really nice to know there are fun, free and interesting events on here. It’s good to know that mental health is taken seriously too”
“Such events are very important because being “alone” (at home) is a feature of poor mental health. Bringing people together often (in small ways) is needed”
“This event is important to allow friends to express how they are feeling after the event, touch on subjects that might have been not spoken about, which leads to better understanding.”
‘Participating in the activities and speaking with the public about mental health. Also I found quite satisfying was when I encouraged an individual to speak to another organisation relevant to their needs’ (Festival Volunteer)