Listen to Us: Black Survivors in the Mental Health Care System

In few days the Black History Month will finish and Spectacle is contributing to this important event by republishing an old and powerful documentary about institutionalized racism in mental health care. The documentary “Listen to Us: Black Survivors of the Mental Health Care System“, collects experiences of mental illness and the impact of institutional treatment on black people’s lives.

The trailer:

Unfortunately the experience of unlawful detention in mental health care institutions and the effects of the stereotype of being “black and dangerous” is still relevant today. We hope this document from the ’90, will raise awareness and contribute to make mental health care better.

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LGBT History on Film: Despite Clause 28 – 1988

LGBT History on Film: Despite Clause 28 (1988) from Spectacle’s Archive.

Despite Clause 28 (1988) Trailer from Spectacle Media on Vimeo.

In the late 1980s and 90s, Despite TV, a collective of filmmakers founded by Mark Saunders (Spectacle Media) specialising in social and political issues, took an active interest in documenting and raising awareness of state-sanctioned discrimination against LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender) persons in the UK.

In 1988 Despite TV produced a short campaign film, ‘Despite the Clause’, in response to the proposal of Section 28, a typically Thatcherite Local Government act proposed in 1986 and passed in 1988 which banned the “promotion of homosexuality”. The bill was proposed by the Conservative Party during the HIV/AIDS epidemic and purported to fear-mongering, homophobic tropes which portray LGBT people as deviant.

Section 28 was to have a damaging affect on LGBT individuals and, in particular, LGBT political and community groups, forcing them to limit their vital contributions to their communities, and in some cases shut down entirely for fear of legal backlash or censorship.

Despite the Clause features appearances from high profile activists including co-founder of Stonewall UK, Sir Ian Mckellen and Michael Cashman and M.P. Diane Abbott. In the film, Abbott, who was present at the proposal of the clause in the House of Commons, describes it as “A horrible, hysterical witch-hunting debate.” She also states that “The spirit behind Section 28 is a spirit of violence and intolerance to anybody that doesn’t conform, to anybody that’s different.”

Despite the best efforts of activists, Section 28 was ultimately passed and not repealed until 2003. Nonetheless, activists describe the resistance built against it as having a positive effect in establishing solidarity between LGBT people across the UK. Stonewall and other activists fought continuously for it’s repeal for over twenty five years. This campaign film subsequently remains a significant piece of LGBT history.

The full film is available for free here.

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See our Despite TV project pages for more information and videos.

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Listen to Us: Black Survivors of the Mental Health Care System

This powerful and emotionally distressing documentary tells the story of black former mental health patients caught up in a psychiatric system reputed to be institutionally racist. These black patients became increasingly vulnerable to unlawful treatment and discrimination once The Mental Health Act (1983) permitted patients to be detained against their will.

 

These brave survivors speak out about their personal experiences and describe what it means to be black and mentally ill. You get the feeling that these people were misunderstood, misdiagnosed and racially stereotyped as “black and dangerous”. Furthermore, the disturbingly low lack of patient support for black patients also denied them the comfort and security of which they were entitled.

Their stories examine the harsher side of a typical mental health institution, in relation to the measures of control used upon patients. This includes factors concerning higher doses of medication, seclusion, control, and constraint.

In this documentary, former patients speak out about their life before, during, and after their incarceration. You follow them through their journeys of confusion and turmoil. Firstly, their struggles to understand their illnesses, and how they cope with the side effects of medication. Then secondly, their attempt to rebuild their lives and overcome their dreadful experiences that they suffered.

Listen to Us, filmed in the late 90s is an insightful and important viewing, and its a topic still widely relevant today. Little has changed within the last decade which indicates that the problem hasn’t gone away. However in spite of this, treatment received by various black ethnicities is continually less widely reported.

Statistically black people are more likely to be diagnosed with a mental health problem, and are three to five times more likely to be diagnosed or admitted to hospital for schizophrenia than any other group. Also when it comes the populations of prisons and secure units, black people are again over-represented.

There is still a way to go before this group can get the support and understanding they need to secure successful treatment. This documentary highlights these points and demonstrates that their voices still need to be heard, as the title Listen to Us indicates.

Buy Listen to Us on DVD click here

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