As Mental Health Awareness Week passes by, a heart-wrenching, narrative of a young woman’s struggle with her own mental health emerges.
By Angelica Gayle – Contributing Film Reviewer
Trigger Warning: This content mentions Drug Use and Suicide. Reader Discretion is advised.
Due to the ongoing circumstances of Covid-19 that threaten our daily peace of mind, most people won’t be aware of the importance of the 18th-24th May as Mental Health Awareness Week 2020. More than ever before, self-care is the buzz word doing the rounds -in daily life, and through the media- laying as equal importance on looking after oneself as well as being caring towards other -if not more. In my opinion, speaking openly about mental health appears to be a ‘taboo’ subject amongst some communities (one that most approach with caution and don’t always make a priority). However, the opposite is true. It is in speaking openly about mental health with trained Counsellors and Therapists that individuals are given the keys to manage their lives safely, and with confidence.
Creativity, and the world of the performing arts can offer a cathartic release which enables and offers many performers some comfort from their inner struggles in the form of self-expression. On the flip side, there are those who use their artistic talent to raise awareness of how mental health continues to affect millions of individuals and their families.
What struck me the most about Imogen in her documentary entitled “Imogen,” was how beautiful she was, both inside and out. Despite her circumstances, she had a sheer lust for life showcased through her writing, music and artwork. As her younger sister Allegra, and mother Diane sift through piles of photos and notebooks (two decades worth) centered around Imogen’s life, they start to allow themselves to come to terms with the reality of Imogen’s situation: the complexity of thoughts that ceaselessly to run through her mind.
As we hear the recounts, songs and poems that brand Imogen’s notebooks, she comes back to life in the form of upcoming actor, Jessemine Bliss-Bell, who with sensitivity and emotional understanding reenacts moments from the last few days of Imogen’s life. It’s clear that “Imogen” the film, spoke for a variety of people from different backgrounds about trauma, and the consequences caused by mental illnesses. Perhaps the biggest fatality to Imogen‘s tragedy was that she was never physically alone: but believed that she was. She had a strong and loving support network through her mother and sister, yet still felt as if she was ‘losing her humaness’ resulting in her seeking out heroin to relieve some of her pain.
Statistics show that Heroin is the silent killer amongst those suffering with mental health. The users who appear to have a strong support network tend to still feel inadequate: they are the ones who end up slipping under the net, and go unnoticed by medical practitioners.
Imogen‘s tragic story was captured in a beautiful and intense way by an incredible production team consisting of: Lola Young, Matt Shea, Margo Mars, Alma Her’el and Charlotte Hatherley. Emerging director, Lola Young expressed that the documentary was a therapeutic celebration of Imogen’s life, and an experience that all the creatives on her team would learn from. Producer, Alma Her’el is no stranger to putting cathartic experiments on screen, and is no stranger to tackling deep issues with depth and grit: Her’el notably directed Shia LaBeouf in his biopic, “Honey Boy” last year. She spoke about the messiness of dealing with a life story such as Imogen’s, and how creating the cathartic release of her life was no simple journey. Composer, Charlotte Hatherley paid tribute to Imogen’s talent as a musician by incorporating Imogen’s original music into the soundtrack of the documentary. In honouring Imogen and her life, this film certainly was a celebration of a truly talented, young woman. No stone was left un-turned as Imogen’s struggles were imprinted on our minds -her strengths also- which was at the heart of this project. It was deeply moving, powerful and a clear forefront for Mental Health Awareness Week.
Imogen was one of millions of people who got lost along the way in finding themselves. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that almost 800,000 people take their lives every year by committing suicide which is said to be the third leading cause of deaths for 15-19 year olds. As the general public we are more aware of the causes of suicide both externally and internally, yet more support, and Central Government funding for Mental Health Services is needed to prevent these suicides from happening. However, I’m sure we can all agree that making mental health less of an uncomfortable subject for all to discuss openly is a big step towards a long and healthy life of inner peace. I believe that Imogen’s story is a penultimate step on this journey for everyone.
Here is a list of helplines for those struggling with their mental health:
Samaritans (for all ages) 116 123 open 24 hours a day 365 days of the year
CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) 0800 58 58 58 open to those who identify as male
Papyrus 0800 068 41 41 for those who are under the age of 35 open Monday-Friday from 9am to 10pm and 2pm to 10pm on bank holidays and weekends
Childline 0800 1111 for children aged 19 and under
The Mix 0808 808 4994 for those under the age of 25
Shout text Shout to 85258
Youngminds an information service for parents who are concerned about the well being of a young person or child can call 0808 802 5544
Maytree 020 7263 7070 service is open to all and open 24 hours a day 7 days a week
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