The Light Inside - a new film about mental illness and recovery
28 April, 2022
I am a semi-retired consultant psychiatrist working in liaison psychiatry in Bath. The Light Inside is a short film about the experience of mental illness and the possibility of recovery, which uses the voices of those who have experienced mental illness, including my own.
In the autumn of 2020, I was contacted by Jesse Lawrence (writer and director) and Harry Knight (producer) who asked me to get involved with their project as a consultant and adviser.
Jesse is an award-winning filmmaker who was a patient of mine some years ago when I worked in a Community Mental Health Team; some of his films explore challenging psychological topics and draw on his own experiences.
The story Jesse wanted to tell on this occasion was that, despite the worst of experiences, there is hope, and the aim was to ask viewers, by listening to other peoples’ narratives, to reflect on what recovery means to them, what is their ‘Light Inside’.
At the time of their approach, I was recovering from a depressive episode brought about by recent personal events that resonated with past trauma. However, I had no hesitation in getting involved and soon volunteered my own experience; part of my recovery had been dealing with shame and I came to the view that mental health professionals must talk about their own experiences when they can.
Much of the making of the film involved Jesse carrying out hours of interviews with the participants; we tried to be as inclusive as possible and participants include those who have experienced the most severe forms of illness.
The long preparatory work culminated in filming on the hottest day of 2021; an amazing experience for all of us. Jesse and Harry were able to involve a highly experienced cinematographer and innovative sound designers; visually, the film is relatively simple but arresting and the sound design (using Dolby Atmos) is highly immersive.
Narratives build in layers, resulting in a powerful experience that speaks to the audience in many different ways, potentially resonating with our own stories.
“You have to try and make a meaningful life for yourself, illness or no illness, that’s what you have to do.”
I am really proud to be involved in this project and hope that it will provoke conversations about illness and recovery, including amongst my colleagues.