The current anthropology of mental health.
Inglehart’s (1997, p.31) discussion of how freedom of expression and political participation are becoming increasingly important, influencing the creation of this film to elaborate on my experience of mental health. Film is as Aina (2004) identifies “ [an]…important source of public information on mental health issues,”, a force of representation as seen in documentaries such as The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive (2009, BBC) which has helped to spotlight mental health issues. Ahmed and Shore (2005) further indicate how anthropology needs to relate to contemporary problems and this implies the importance of addressing the impact of mental illness on people in contemporary society. This can be seen in organisations such as SAVE ( Suicide Awareness Voices of Education) in which the programme of LEADS, focusing on educating grades 9-12 about depression, how to seek help and recognise symptoms. Furthermore ADAP, Adolescent Depression Awareness Programme, advises and raises awareness about what depression is and how it can be reduced both in others and yourself. In schools this awareness makes recognition of depression easier, and therefore easier to address. As there is a need to represent and make anthropology more relatable, shown in the invention of auto-ethnography and looking inwards, this film acts as an autoethnography ( Reed-Danahay, 1997) . By addressing my experiences and creating a context of self, a sense of personal space, anthropology is being redefined not as the study of the other, but of the anthropologist’s own world; “ a means of engagement” ( Moore, 2011, p.11).
Feld (2003) describes acoustemology, the use of sound to create a sense of space , a knowledge and awareness that is essential to understand contemporary anthropology, which can be applied to this filmmaking process, in creating a personal and wider awareness of mental health. Ratcliffe ( 2012) identifies this need for awareness and support particularly concerning students, elaborating upon the impact of economic and social systems on depressive behaviours, this article identifies the need to create awareness concerning the need to represent mental health accurately and how mental health is constructed within different societies. Gentleman (2014) identifies how there is a current crisis in how mental health is addressed and this film, is in part, a way of broaching the gap between knowledge and help for mental health patients.
The work of Jean Rouch, the involvement of anthropologists in filmmaking and performing on the screen, created a new anthropological space. The intimacy of this film, the potential intimacy of ethnography reflecting life experience is something that I wanted to mimic, as Taylor identifies “ reflecting on one’s life is an integral part of living it” ( MacDougall, 1998, p.5). I chose this topic, my experience of depression, because I felt it was both relevant to current social issues, and that in relation to Jean Rouch, is illustrative of society and contemporary issues. As seen in Chronique d-un ete (1961), in the discussions of race at the lunch table, I aimed to mimic this honest, unscripted discussion of everyday discussions concerning contemporary topics. This film arguably represents an honest account of everyday life for someone with depression, the art of the film illustrating and developing anthropology of mental illness as shown by Aina(2004) in Africa. As Moore discusses the “art of living” the abstract nature of life, the overlapping processes of thought and being in the world are important aspects that I wanted to mimic, getting the impression of my thoughts interacting with my everyday behaviour of running. Brown and Keller (1979, p.30) further identify how “ behind everything we say are the feelings we have about ourselves”, the mental makes up our reality and so to recreate this sense of mental rationality and experience I needed to involve myself completely, placing my thoughts within the social context of everyday, reducing the boundaries of subject-object ( Hart and Grimshaw, 1996). To challenge and resolve my experience of depression and suicide, I needed to address the issues itself and place it in a space that offered reflexivity ( Otto, 2013). It is a documentary of everyday life from one viewpoint, a perspective that offers insight into human life that is not distinct or culturally separate but relatable and adds to contemporary discourses. Sontag(1977, p.11) describes the enduring nature of film and photography, which arguably makes the impact of the visual upon anthropology, and society in general, all the more important, an engagement of self with the rest of human sociality;“ After the event has ended, the picture will still exist”. The film is both iconic and indexical which adds to the impact of the footage (Pinney, 1992); indexical as it represents the space I am within now, the current sociality, and iconic, as for me this footage is representative of me as I intend to be from now on, a documentation of my experience and depression, that is significant and, in a personal sense, timeless. The narrative account focuses on the movement from the past to my present reality, and it is this relativity of past and present that secures my experiences’ place in time and the development and adaptation of myself “ an ethnographic past can become the most vivid part of our present existence” ( Fabian, 1983, p.93). This narration, describing a development can be seen in the Gregory Giorgio track by Daft Punk (2013), in which the use of narration elaborates on Giorgio’s career journey. Narrative within the film will express my development as an individual from this point forward and describe the personal journey I have undergone in order to reach the space of reflexivity that I am within now.
Techniques used within filmmaking.
Music and narrative play an integral role in the topic, not to carry the film but to help create a sense of place and presence; awareness ( Feld, 2003). As Brown and Keller support (1979, p.9) “ communication is symbolic interaction” , the use of voice and particular songs is a form of narrative, a dialogic journey. This dialogue creates a connection between the meaning of the footage to the audience. As Bassett (1996) discusses the use of EFM to get in touch with the foetus, this application of sound as a communicatory device can be interpreted in my film as a way of connecting illnesses with the audience, getting in touch with sensitive topics.; music offers insight to personal experience and develops the idea of my person in both psychological and physical sense of the audience’ acting as paint on a canvas. This is further explained using Kunreutuer(2006, p.329) “ voice I heard as a sign of emotional directness, authenticity and immediacy”. The voice is a form of empowerment and consciousness, not only of the narrator but of those who listen. Beyonce’s (2013) album track about feminism, featuring Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie , expresses how voice is an immediate form of protest, directly reaching the ear and the individual. This track elaborates on the empowering nature of voice, an empowerment that has been expressed in my film as a way of addressing a very sensitive and personal topic in order to create awareness in the audience.
The power that lies within the act of listening is explained using Schwartz (2003, p.487) “the ear is a particularly vulnerable organ of perception”; the ear a way of connecting deeper than sight. Though Bloch (2008, p.595) states that sight offers truth, as words could be lies, within this project sight would arguably create an uncomfortableness and visually distract the audience from the film’s message as using speech directs the film, and as depression is a mental reality, conveys this sense of mental exploration of the self, an internal articulation of problems “ Language enables humans to lie”; the voice inside my head. Therefore voice and music “ resonate” ( Wikan, 1992) deeper than footage of me speaking about mental illness; arguably an innovative way of communicating, however the limitations of voice “ language as a form of representation as at technology for describing and knowing the world, has its limitations” ( Moore, 2011, p.117), therefore I have involved montage to create a sense of what a personal experience of depression entails, from my viewpoint, the film is filmed in a style that directs the camera from my eye-line.
Montage does not directly drive the eye to an event, but I want the impression that footage is taken from my perspective, through an eye-line perspective and the use of voice over the footage to elaborate on the importance of an individual focal point; “ Reality is summed up in an army of casual fragments – an endlessly alluring, poignantly reductive way of dealing with the world” (Sontag, 1977, p.80). Montage creates a greater sense of reality, a multi-faceted dimension, moments of time experienced and involving. The film is a mix of a filmed present and narration, a colportage of “ moments of the past and the different…glued onto the experiences of the present” ( Seremetakis, 1993, p.7). The aim of the footage is to create a sense of self, a persons’ own experience of mental illness, using narrative to enhance the sense of mental reality and the development of a person over time. The layering of montage implies passage of time, offering different settings and insights. Whilst voice connects past to present, as sense of historicity of the self, elaborates on depression as a condition and the way it can be resolved in the ‘now’.
The sensitivity of the topic makes it difficult to represent, both in the way I present my own experience and the fear of being judged, as well as concerning crossing the boundary between explanatory and the film becoming self-obsessed. Therefore to make sure the film is valid throughout, I focused heavily on using participant involvement, as Otto (2007) demonstrates in his film ‘Ngat is dead’, in which the involvement of the participants creates a more rounded, thicker description of the study. Involving audience participation means that the film can be critically analysed within production, which I repeatedly did; showing film to friends, family, my mother who was involved in the filming and by watching the film critically myself.
As Moore (1993, p.120) discusses the critique of being representative in the narrative voice “ [obscuring] authentic representation of ethnographic explanation”. The autoethnographic nature of the film arguably makes this film representative of my experience, the issue being just how valid I can make it, without getting lost in my involvement.
Sontag (1977, p.27 )“ The knowledge gained through still photographs will always be some kind of sentimentalism”, though Sontag is discussing photography this can still be applied to the film, as a need to make it evocative yet still relevant. The film aims to explore mental illness and represent a snapshot of what this experience entails, the autoethnographic account that offers truth, insight and experience of mental illness.
Film is way of identifying with contemporary problems, especially the issue of mental illness, therefore although discuss potentially uncomfortable topics, the sensitive nature makes the creation of the film about depression and suicide all the more important. The reflexive nature of voice and narration, a private discussion is significant not only for the audience but furthermore for my own development and battle with mental illness. This film is a process of healing and personal development; private efficacy.
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