Social Power and Mental Health: Evolving Research Through Lived Experience — A Conference

Social Power and Mental Health: Evolving Research Through Lived Experience — A Conference
19 – 23 April 2021
A festival of online and virtual events hosted by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) at the University of Cambridge, UK. 

My Crazy Boxers will be shown in the Art & Film components of the conference. (see full program below)

This conference seeks to create dialogue between two forms of expertise. It will bring together people with lived experience of mental health challenges and researchers, with the aim of starting conversations between these two groups of experts. We also recognise that many people belong in both groups.

Our theme is the link between social power and mental health. Disempowered social groups are at an increased risk of mental health issues. They are more likely to face difficult economic, social and environmental conditions. Gender, ethnicity, sexuality, disabilities and social class intersect with these. What are the latest research findings on these topics? How do they compare with lived experiences? When might research worsen mental health challenges? What kinds of methods can produce empowerment?

We will also reflect on the social context of mental health, power and inequality. While mental wellbeing is now being discussed widely, stigma remains significant. And people who are already disempowered are much more likely to be labelled ‘mentally ill’. How does stigma link to social power? What is the role of psychiatric services and the welfare state? How are power inequalities reinforced, and how can we challenge them? How do we work towards a future where everyone can openly share their lived experiences, be valued for their contribution and appropriately supported in their endeavours?

The conference has been designed with people who have used psychiatric services in Cambridgeshire. Our speakers include social scientists, psychiatrists, psychologists and service users/survivors. Throughout there will be group discussions with local people who have experience of mental health challenges.

Our intent is for people with lived experience to take the lead as we explore the many intersections between mental health and social power. The conference aims to place research expertise and the expertise of experience on an equal footing. We want to work together to find gaps in knowledge, and then outline a future research agenda to address these. How can we challenge power inequalities in, and through, research? And how can we evolve research by valuing lived experience?

Films To Be Shown: available between 19-25 April 2021.

Fat, Black, & Sad, Written and performed by Destiny Adeyemi, Directed by Sumayyah Wong, 2020, UK, 2:00 minutes.
“Fat, Black, & Sad” explores fatphobia, healthism, and Destiny Adeyemi’s own experiences as a fat, Black person. With this film, they hope to open up a discussion about how fatphobia works through anti-Blackness and racism in medicine.

Silence Is Not Golden, by Pei Si Wong, 2018, Singapore, 4:59 minutes.
For a large part of his life, the majority of people who have come into contact with Nigel have never heard him speak. He suffers from Selective Mutism, a rare anxiety disorder that severely affects his ability to speak under certain circumstances. Based on the real-life story of Nigel Ng, a young Singaporean, Silence Is Not Golden sheds light on his extraordinary journey, giving the audience an insight into his inner world.

Catalina, Directed by Paola Ossam, 2018, US, 14 min
An 11 year old girl learns to fend for herself while her undocumented mother spirals in fear of being deported.

Jesse Jams, directed by Trevor Anderson, 2020, Canada, 15:52 minutes.
Jesse, a young and trans Indigenous musician and his rock band, bring mumblepunk to the Interstellar Rodeo. A rock’n’roll survival story of a different stripe.

Big Boys Don’t Cry, by Joe Byrne, 2018, Ireland, 2:36 minutes.
Joe Byrne professionally know as – Freddy black – is an international, multi-award-winning, poet, writer, actor and filmmaker from Dublin in Ireland.

Elephant in The Room, Performance by Lanre Malaolu, 2017, UK, 3:27 minutes.
“Elephant in the Room” explores the complexities of experiencing mental illness from the perspective of a male. This choreographed piece by actor and dance-theatre maker Lanre Malaolu who attempts to dissect the stigma attached to mental health by following a day in the life of a victim, highlighting the constant internal and external battle to be “normal”.

Thank you, Now Goodbye, by Pearl Tan, 2020, Australia, 3:12 minutes.
In her ongoing struggle with anxiety, a woman tries a different approach and makes a discovery.  This film was made during a particularly transformative point of the filmmakers’ lives, and while we would never try to speak for everyone, we do hope this film provides solace and compassion for those who see themselves in it.

My Crazy Boxers, by Krissy Mahan, 2019, US, 8:46 minutes.
Suicidal – or just a working-class gender queer caught in the wrong underpants?
Pixellated fragments slowly materialise in this powerful and distressing video based on actual meetings with hospital staff while in a psychiatric hospital system.

Another Way: Young People Talk Mental Health, Directed by Daniel Mitelpunkt, Produced by Youth Access, 2017, UK, 4:50 minutes.
Young people share their experiences with the mental health system in the UK, and how important it is to have access to local Youth Information, Advice and Counselling Services (YIACS).

The Limbo, directed by Neha Shamim, 2020, Bangladesh, 5:31 minutes.
Every day can feel like you’re going down on a spiral when you’re stuck in The Limbo. When locked away at home for months on end, smartphones can become a person’s only window to the outside world. And so, ‘The Limbo’ is the story of a girl struggling to maintain her sanity as the pressures of being life creep in, leading to the gradual deterioration of her mental health amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Fear of the Unkown, by Daniel Brereton, 2019, UK, 6:33 minutes.
“Fear of the Unknown” is the first film in a series of short documentaries Daniel Brereton has made, exploring the subject of mental health. Fear of the Unknown is the story of an old friend of Daniel’s who spent years never leaving his home. Imprisoned by his depression, it wasn’t until a therapist suggested they have their sessions whilst walking in the hills, that he was finally able to see the world from an objective viewpoint. The film captures the young man in his sanctuary, the Lake District mountains, as he narrates to the viewer his complex journey.

Silence and the Sufferer, directed by Furaha Asani, 2016, UK, 2:23 minutes
On making this film Furaha says: I’d undertaken a challenge to write and publish one piece on my medium blog every day of 2016. During that year I also fell in love with Akwaeke Emezi’s award-winning experimental short film, ‘Ududeagu.’ This film moved and inspired me deeply, especially as I was mourning the unexpected loss of my father in March 2016. With this inspiration overlapping with my feelings, I wrote a short story called ‘silence and the sufferer.’ Someone who’d been following my writing challenge suggested that I too, make an experimental short film out of my written work. Collaborating with my sister on something that was entirely ours became an avenue for us to share something fun together, as well as express our grief and respective mental health struggles through something productive and impactful.

Wicked Queer !!!

I am very proud that I’ve been included in the 37th annual Wicked Queer – Boston’s LGBTQ+ Film FestivalMy Aunt Mame was selected for their 2019 GTFO program (my kind of assortment!) and for 2021 both my films My Crazy Boxers and my parody of Carol will be shown.  All the programs in the festival are available online through the month of GAYpril. Here are the programs I’m in:

Documentary Shorts: Reel Queer Lives.  [Q & A with the filmmakers here]
Does queer cinema leave you asking yourself: Okay but where are our real stories? Well, here they are. Join us for a showcase of lived queer experiences, whether they be local or oceans away. Curated by Wicked Queer Team.

They Through Them: Directed by Joan Galo, 2020, 11 min, Spain, English, Spanish with English subtitles.
Joan explores feelings and thoughts about being non-binary, through the people of their community in Barcelona.

Dear Chaemin: Directed by Cyan Bae, 2020, 17 min, Korea, Korean with English subtitles, Q
Dear Chaemin is a series of three video letters sent by Cyan Bae from The Hague to her sister in Seoul in the midst of social isolation. The autofictional film juxtaposes the Korean and Dutch contexts of contact tracing, biopolitics and crowd control practices, each of which intensifies the stigmatization and violence against queer communities and people of Asian descent. While yearning for the Post-Corona in the New Normal, should we wish the normal back?

Alone Out Here: Directed by Luke Cornish, 2020, 23 min, Australia, English, G
In the moment of catastrophic climate change Jon Wright, a gay farmer, is faced with a dilemma. His 22-year commitment to transform the genetics of his bull herd are pitted against the attitudes of the beef industry. Through his journey of loss and survival, we learn what it takes to be true to yourself, at any cost.

Wishes: Directed by Amy Jenkins, 2019, 6 min, USA, English, T
The secret yearnings of a child for an alternate identity are traced through a decade of birthday wishes filmed by their mother.

In The Image of God: Directed by Bianca Rondolino, 2020, 15 min, Italy, English, I
The fourth generation in his family to be born intersex, Jewish Rabbi Levi was assigned the female gender at birth and grew up thinking he was sick and defective. “In the Image of God” tells the story of his struggles and transitions, culminating today in a life as a religious leader and an LGBTQI+ activist living happily in Los Angeles with his wife.

My Crazy Boxers: Directed by Krissy Mahan, 2020, 9 min, USA, English, T/Q
Suicidal – or just a working class woman caught in the wrong underpants? Pixellated fragments slowly materialise in this video based on actual meetings with hospital staff while in a psychiatric hospital system, creating a powerful and distressing elegy from the incessant gendering of underwear.

A Job Like Any Other: Directed by Annick Roussy, 2020, 21 min, Canada, French with English subtitles, G/Q
Pierre is an ordinary 55 years old man, solitary and very shy. He lives in his tidy and quiet apartment surrounded by his favourite figurine collections. However, his job is far from his low profile type. He’s been a Drag Queen Barmaid for the past 30 years, a hard and restrictive work he never really chose. But for him, it’s a job like any other.

Gay As In Happy: A Queer Anti Tragedy: Directed by Jordana Valerie Allen-Shim, 2020, 3 min, Canada, English, T/Q
An experimental autoethnographic documentary about queer joy, resistance, and resilience in the face of abuse, trauma, and transphobia.


Comedy Shorts.  [Q & A with the filmmakers here]
Who doesn’t need a laugh right now? We’re happy to bring you a program that will have you second guessing if you’re on a date or not, figuring out if breaking into your crush’s apartment to delete an email you accidentally sent is a good idea, or being more interested in your ex getting engaged instead of the zombie apocalypse happening outside. Curated by Katie Shannon.

Salad Daze: Directed by Amelia Foxton, 2020, 4 min, Australia, English, LGBTQ+
An adventure in diversity of sexual preferences. Via the dessert menu…
Carol: Directed by Krissy Mahan, 2016, 7 min, USA, English, L
This short film is a parody of Todd Haynes’ 2015 film “Carol.” With references to Haynes’ own “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story,” this playful short, starring Fisher-Price toy figures, presents a hilarious and necessary perspective left unexamined in the euphoria that there was finally a major motion picture about lesbians.Operator:  Directed by Jonathan Hughes   11 m   English   Ireland   Comedy
A self-obsessed call centre worker deals with a personal heartbreak while on shift as the world crumbles around him… due to a zombie apocalypse.Directed by Jonathan Hughes, 2020, 11 min, Ireland, English, G

Tuxedo Terrace: Directed by Carmine Bicchetti, 2020, 12 min, USA, English, LGBTQ+
When the government begins to inspect their marriage, a gay immigrant and his lesbian wife throw a dinner party in an attempt to fool the INS; but soon realize that they aren’t the only ones hiding something.

A Pound of Flesh: Directed by Oliwia Siem, 2020, 11 min, UK, English, T
A desperate employee gambles a pound of their own flesh against a large sum of their boss’s cash, with life-altering consequences.

Peach:  Directed by Sophie Saville, 2020, 8 min, Australia, English, L
A socially anxious young woman lands a hot date. There’s only one problem, she’s not sure if it’s actually a date.

The D*ck Appointment: Directed by Mike Roma, 2020, 10 min, USA, English, G
When lovelorn Wally wants to get over his ex, he turns to the apps for help.

Break In: Directed by Alyssa Lerner, 2020, 16 min, USA, English, L
What’s more embarrassing than writing erotic fiction about your crush? Writing erotic fiction about your crush and then accidentally texting it to her. When this very thing happens to Nousha she enlists the help of her best friend, Oliver, and they set out on a mission to delete the text. By any means necessary.

Flex: Directed by Matt Porter, 2020, 16 min, USA, English, B
Charles explores the gray areas of his own sexuality after going through an unexpected breakup.

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