Gareth Watkins - Rainbow Touchstones

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[00:00:00] This program is brought to you by pride in [00:00:05] What was the idea that prompted you to put in this application to the to the Mental Health Foundation? [00:00:13] I guess I had been aware of the mental health media grants for a number of years. And I'd seen some really good work come out of there. And I guess, I knew also that there was a lot of mental health issues and the kind of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and six communities. And I wanted a positive way of of helping other people. You know, when you look at some of the statistics, like young people who are attracted to the same six to 12 times more likely to try and commit suicide, that that's a huge number. And I just wanted something that was positive, something that allowed the community to share writing stories. So basically, I'm just acting as a facilitator. [00:01:04] that statistic, obviously shocked you. [00:01:08] Is this about trying to find out why or is it more about saying, well, this is the way it is, let's find out what's actually happening. [00:01:17] I think it's about helping the community. I think the reason seemed quite obvious as to why. And in the community, generally, you know, that there is quite a large section of kind of mental health issues, you know, depression, anxiety, but then you kind of layer on top of that, some of the issues, that kind of least being gay communities face in terms of maybe not being out to the families not being up to the friends not being up to themselves, these layers that build up and then of course, you know, when you've got that kind of feeling of isolation and loneliness, you know, you might be talking about kind of drug and alcohol issues as well, you know, fear for the future job relationship. And they all kind of add on to each other. [00:02:04] So the higher incidence, if you like, of mental health issues in these communities didn't come as a surprise, in some ways to you [00:02:11] not at all. [00:02:12] What do you think? Or how difficult is it going to be for you then given that there is that sense of isolation, and, and since have not able to come out? How difficult is it going to be for you to get people to come and share their stories? [00:02:27] It was interesting in putting together this proposal for mental health media grant, I was aware of at least, you know, maybe five or six kind of close friends that had issues. And I thought, Gosh, well, you know, if I know, five or six people, it is going to be quite a large number of people from the community. On the first day of putting out a press release actually asking for participants, I got 10 people email me, on one hand, that's great. On the other hand, it's kind of a double as well, because you think, gosh, that is quite widespread. But ultimately, it's very positive, because it means that those people want to share the stories, they want to help the community in some way. [00:03:12] What's going to get produced, how the story is going to be conveyed, how you're going to be the facilitator. [00:03:17] Yeah, well, digital stories are a really fascinating way of communicating a story or an idea. Basically, a digital story is between about three and five minutes. It's a video piece. It's primarily driven by the participant. So I will work on a one to one basis with them. And focusing on a particular aspect of the story. The in that they write some duration, like we do, we would have workshopping, so we write a bit of a script. Ideally, they would have had some other kind of creative output vs. You know, kind of poetry, prose, writing, singing songs, that that narration and speech stuff, welcome to woven with maybe interview material, and then visually, you know, with photographs with old photographs, new photographs, and that basically forms the basis of the digital story. [00:04:12] And how's it going to be conveyed? What will be the different media that you can use to convey those stories? [00:04:20] One of the really exciting things with this project is that the main output is going to be on the internet. So the stories will be up via YouTube, so that basically, anyone can look at the stories. And that is great, because not only do you have a global audience, but also you could be reaching people that aren't necessarily comfortable talking with family and friends around them. It's a very one to one personal experience, rather than seeing something in a theater. So you know, you were probably going to reach people that we wouldn't reach in other circumstances. And then the other way that these are being released as on DVD, and that will be available to counselors and support groups as [00:05:03] well. So you're going to have to be almost a curator of stories as much as some of them actually, because people are going to feel comfortable talking to you to start with. Absolutely. [00:05:14] I think the big thing is that relationship between me as the kind of facilitator producer, and and the participant as well. And I think, you know, we're kind of working now on the kind of selection process, what kind of people are we wanting to participate and who wants to participate, there's quite a large number of kind of criteria we're looking at to make sure that I think both the participants safe and in that the producer safe as well, that you're not really traumatizing people that they're giving informed consent, they have to be aware that what they're doing, is actually sharing themselves publicly. [00:05:52] That's why I use the word curator, because it's not like you're just simply gathering the stories and then saying right there out there, goodbye. It's like an exhibition of whatever, that you actually are not only getting it to a point where it can be exhibited. But you're being making sure that the way that it's exhibited, from now on in is going to be something which honors and acknowledges the person's experience of the people's experience. [00:06:18] Yeah, I want to go through a process, when we're actually creating these, we're, you know, the participants have to be happy all the way through. And that's why at the very onset of the process, they need to be fully aware of what they're actually doing is going to be pretty public. And I suppose the challenge there is that someone might start off by thinking this is okay. But in the process of telling this story, start to relive some of those those feelings, and may be the not sure that they want that story told you're gonna have to be, I guess, working with people, right, the way through it again, you know, I think the kind of pre selection is going to be really important in identifying, you know, how close to events, the participants or potential participants, you know, are they still feeling kind of really angry or hurt or whatever. I suppose digital stories are very much about reflection. So it's, it's reflecting on an event, and how you positively have dealt with that event. So yes, certainly people in crisis. I certainly don't think this is appropriate for their it's more reflecting back on on on the event. [00:07:31] Of course, suicide, there's a huge lot of talk around how media represents that. That's something you're going to obviously take into account to year. And Was that something that when you were putting the project down that that that was an issue in some ways of how that [00:07:46] was gonna be dealt with is and certainly the the Mental Health Foundation were very strong, and me getting support from spins, which is suicide prevention information, New Zealand, who I have to say both spins, and the Mental Health Foundation had been absolutely fantastic. In terms of offering advice, guidance. That's great. What the time frame, the timeframe is that over the next four to six weeks, I'm seeking participants who would be interested in taking part, then we'll go through a process with the Mental Health Foundation to select five people to take part on the digital stories. And the in from January next year. It's the production of those stories. And it should all be wrapped up by August, next year. One of the things that I've come up against as well, as you know, well, so you have 20 people wanting to participate, and you've only got five to 12 stories. What do you do? How do you tell the other people that actually they haven't been selected? So I need to think of ways in which we can actually widen the participation, maybe not under stories, but some other form of actual contribution? Because I think it's really important that if people are saying, I want to tell my story, that actually you allow that to happen in some way [00:09:09] is once you open those gates, it's not necessarily going to be something you want to close. [00:09:13] No. And I mean, one of the things that we were talking about with spins on the Mental Health Foundation, if we can structure this project as almost a pilot project, and work through the process and work through how it all works effectively, then it could possibly lead on to other things. So my aim is to try and structure in such a way that actually at the end of the project, this could be taken up by somebody else, and they could do a similar thing.

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