Mental health at work: films by young people
This exciting partnership saw three films created by early career artists who, with the support of an experienced theatre company, conducted research interviews with young adults (18-25) and managers in a variety of workplaces.
The resulting monologues were based on genuine lived experiences. Chloe Taylor, one of the writers, said it was ‘moving and humbling to hear other people’s experiences’ and a ‘real privilege to be trusted with them’.
Following the interviews, the three artists, along with Charlie Waller and Women and Theatre, came together to share and discuss the research, ensuring the films would work cohesively and cover a range of themes. The young creatives then worked individually to write their monologues, edit them with the support of Women and Theatre, rehearse and finally shoot them with filmmaker Kate Green.
Jess Pearson, Executive Director of Women and Theatre, commented on the ‘authentic’ process of working with young people who ‘had their own experiences’ as well as ‘those of their peer groups to draw upon’. She was also conscious to ensure that the process was supportive of the three writers’ own mental health ‘in context of their vulnerabilities as artists’.
Art imitating life...imitating art!
It was sometimes difficult, artist Aoife O’Connor remarked, because the topics of mental health and best practice were quite pertinent to their own life, being an artist working in the post-pandemic industry.
Eric Mok, the third artist, described the process as being ‘meta, almost like art was imitating life imitating art...’ and both Chloe and Aoife saw it as an opportunity to reflect on their own experiences at work.
Eric, Chloe and Aoife all reflected upon the challenges of conducting live research and allowing the interviewees’ stories to inform their writing, whilst also ensuring that the work is concise, not exploitative and remains anonymous. Despite this, all developed a natural conversational style with the research participants and the resulting films were consequentially more honest in their portrayal of mental health at the workplace.
It was challenging to find the balance between 'a story' and 'my story'
Challenges and pressures
As a young person with mental health issues themselves, Aoife added that it was challenging to find the balance between ‘a story’ and ‘my story’, and then perform and write about something that they had lived experience of.
On working with the young artists and overseeing the research, Jess Pearson said she began to think more deeply about the ‘different expectations and pressures’ young people face at work, and we believe these to be strongly represented in the final films. The monologues are successful in representing internal and external pressures, practical challenges of the workplace itself, and the mental health impact if these are ignored and left unspoken about.
“There is a lot left unspoken and I feel it's important to leave this 'stiff upper lip' ' keep calm and carry on' mindset behind and to just be honest and open about how you feel. What particularly stands out to me is how so many feel guilty about having a day off or calling in sick... for fear of disappointing or letting down their team.” - Eric Mok
Scope for hope
Aoife has even adjusted the way that they work ‘as a result of the project, which is always positive’ and they also ‘realised how lucky [they’ve] been in situations involving mental health and the workplace and how different everyone's experiences are’. Along this line, Chloe maintained ‘there’s a lot to be hopeful about’ if we can make improvements in the workplace and make a conscious and integrated effort to support colleagues and employees.
Beyond this project, all three creatives will continue to write and make work, whilst remaining mindful of their own and their peers’ mental health. Women and Theatre are constantly making work that reflects the language and lives of ordinary people, with a strong community focus.
Sign up to our workshops
The films will be used in bespoke workshops as part of our Workplace Programme for young people, designed to increase our understanding of the workplace experience.
They provide practical tools and discussion points on three wider topics:
- The Call: how to create a mentally healthy workplace
- The Conversation: how to approach your manager when feeling overwhelmed or stress
- The Return: how to ensure an effective return to work following mental health related absence
These innovative workshops aimed at managers and leaders use the films as a case study and a springboard into further learning points about mental health and workplace.
Watch excerpts from each film here
To register your interest in these workshops and to find out more please email firstname.lastname@example.org.