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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Interview: Spectacle training ‘demystified’ the filmmaking process

Spectacle has been offering flexible, efficient and affordable training based at our Lavender Hill office in South London for several years. In that time, we’ve had all kinds of people come through our doors, and the feedback we’ve received at the end of the courses has been overwhelmingly positive. Recently, however, we wondered exactly what our trainees have taken away from our particular approach to teaching in the long run. We sought out Michaela Benson, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, a few months after she finished our Digital Video Production for Anthropologists & Social Researchers training weekend to discuss this.

Why did you choose digital video production skills? 

I do a lot of research in people’s houses looking at their relations with the wider residential environment… video can offer a way of introducing participatory elements into an academic research project, and can capture the visual experience of a research setting. I also think that it introduces a different way of communicating findings to our audiences. I wanted to develop these skills so I could apply them myself and start experimenting.

What did you like most about our course?

The way it demystified the process of video-recording and taught me some fail safe basics that are transferable not only into future video work, but also into my everyday use of cameras. I feel that my understanding of video production and the skills involved in this have undoubtedly benefited.

What has stayed with you the most?

The simple understanding of how to frame a shot has been invaluable, and I feel as though it is becoming second-nature.

Now you’ve learned these skills, what’s next?

I’m looking forward to applying my new skills to my current project on self-build in the coming months.

Why do you think researchers should be engaging more with digital video?

I think that video offers additional ways of capturing research data, to be analysed later, and also opens up possibilities for different modes of engagement and communication.

Would you recommend the course to someone else?

I would definitely recommend the course. It broke the process of production into small steps that were easy to remember. Also, having a chance to put these into practice made me realise the benefits of this approach. This is a course that is perfect for anyone who wants to make a start at looking at including video production in their work.

You can find out more about our Digital Video Production for Anthropologists & Social Researchers training weekend here, including upcoming dates and fees.
If you’re interested in documentary film making but you’re not a researcher, we have a range of other courses that may interest you. All our training courses apply the same ‘fail safe’, ‘small steps’ approach to give you the confidence to pick up a video camera and start shooting.

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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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The loss of a British Institution looms

An important symbol of South London and a key feature of the city’s skyline, the Battersea Power Station, has been left to decay for more than twenty years. Created by Gilbert Scott in 1935, the building has slowly rotted away after both station’s A and B were  decommissioned in 1975 and 1983 respectively. The much-loved monument is listed on the English Heritage’s “Buildings at Risk” register.

For full article please click here.

Click Battersea Power Station for more blogs
See our Battersea Power Station project pages for more information and videos.
Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.

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