Animated Minds was conceived in 2003 as an attempt to communicate the subjective experience of mental health problems to a wider audience. The idea was simple: to take the testimony of a variety of people who have experienced mental distress, and then to try to animate their experience. The result, it was hoped, would be a series of engaging short films which would give a general audience a greater understanding of what it feels like to live with various mental difficulties.
The reception to the films was far greater than expected. Not only did they reach a large audience through various broadcast partners (Channel 4, Teachers TV), but they have also been used by teaching hospitals, schools, universities, mental health community centres, mental health charities, and by service users themselves, who would use the films to try to show others what their experience was like. It’s a little known fact that one in four people will suffer a mental health problem at some point during their life, and yet “mental illness” is still something that is often not talked about and is shrouded in misconceptions and prejudice. There is a lot being done to address this now, and it's very rewarding for all those who worked on the Animated Minds project knowing that these films – in their own little way – may be contributing to this effort.
The process of making the Animated Minds films was as collaborative as possible. Andy Glynne, the director, trained as a clinical psychologist and therefore knew about mental health and some of the myths and prejudices that surrounded various “conditions”. After having identified individuals who wanted to talk about their experiences, Andy recorded interviews with them, which were then edited down to create a short narrative rich in visual metaphors. Once it was made sure that no information was included which might cause any distress to the people involved, the process of animation began. Working with some of the best animators, Andy tried to create visual sequences which would add depth and meaning to the audio interview. This would result in a ‘storyboard’ which gave him, the animators, and the interviewee a sense of what the final animation may look like. When everyone felt happy with the final product, composers were brought in to add a soundscape and music to the finished piece. It’s all metaphor, and the team behind the Animated Minds films knows that it can never be fully understood what it feels like to actually experience some of the difficulties covered in these films, but – as far as metaphors go, it was felt that it would be a good starting point to all work together to help inform people and get them to think more about what it means to have a mental health problem. This was Andy’s and all the team behind Animated Minds ambition and they hope that, when watching the films, you feel they have succeeded.