This is one film festival that stands out from the rest, for its determination to confront the social stigma surrounding mental illness.
Its name, the Singapore Mental Health Film Festival, says it all. As the first of its kind in the country, the event wants to bring awareness to the public and tackle any discrimination associated with conditions like Alzheimer’s, bulimia, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder by using accessible and relatable mediums such as films, talks, and workshops.
The festival’s first edition zooms in on youth mental wellness and dementia, creating an environment that’s open and understanding to challenge such taboo topics. Its February line-up at The Projector spans 11 feature and short films, alongside eight discussions and eight workshops run by over 30 industry experts, caregivers, and individuals in recovery.
According to the organizers, social enterprise The Breathe Movement, the Singapore Mental Health Study in 2010 showed about one in eight Singaporeans struggling with common mental disorders such as alcohol abuse, obsessive compulsive disorder, and major depressive disorder. You may not think you know anyone with such conditions, but often the struggle is silent.
Opening the festival, No Letting Go is based on a true story, following a teen with mental illness and his parent’s desperate attempts to help him and keep the family together. Still Alice, a film based on Lisa Genova’s 2007 novel, stars Julianne Moore as a professor who’s diagnosed with Alzheimer’s just after she turns 50, while Much Too Young is a documentary that chronicles the lives of four families dealing with the same disease at a young age.
Also finding its roots in real life, Canadian drama Still Mine tells the tale of 89-year-old Craig Morrison in his attempt to go up against the government to build a new house for his wife, who’s losing her memory.
As for the shorts, which will screen together with some of the features, Again, With Feeling takes a look at the loneliness of depression, Between Earth and Sky explores questions about caregiving, and Silence Is Not Golden delves into the true life story of a young Singaporean who suffers from a rare anxiety disorder called selective mutism.
After the screenings, guests can sit in on discussions that revolve around living with bipolar disorder, dementia, and schizophrenia, as well as mental health issues in the workplace and mental health care at home. Workshops are available as well, including ones on body poetry for healing, virtual experiences to help develop understanding and empathy, aroma yoga with essential oils, and mindfulness for the digital age.
If you’d like to get a head-start on learning more about mental illness in Singapore, the festival site’s “personal stories” page is full of real-life journeys from people pouring their heart out. Give ’em a read, and leave a reply to be part of the conversation.
Singapore Mental Health Film Festival is on from Feb 21-24, various timings at The Projector.
MRT: Nicoll Highway/Bugis