Oxford School of Nursing and Midwifery

Loving Vincent - a beautiful animation and lively mental health discussion.

Monday, 26 March 2018

loving vincent news

Charlotte Yeatman, Teaching Fellow in Nursing (Mental Health), reports back on the Loving Vincent screening at the Oxford Human Rights Festival.

Last week saw the 16th annual Oxford Human Rights Festival, organised by the Centre for Development and Emergency Practice at Oxford Brookes.

The week long programme included a variety of workshops, talks, films and performances in line with the theme ‘Identity’.

The organisers were keen to embrace the notion of what makes us who we are. Of course, part of this is mental health, which plays a huge part in our identity. As such, I was very pleased to represent the Department of Nursing on a panel about mental health following a screening of the Oscar-nominated film Loving Vincent. This beautifully created animation explores the life of Vincent Van Gogh and in particular the circumstances surrounding his death. Vincent experienced mental health problems throughout his life.

Alongside me were two other panellists. The first was Amy Enticknap, actor and co-founder of the Human Story Theatre, a pop-up theatre company based in Oxford focusing on plays with a health and social care issue at heart. The second was Andi Reiss, filmmaker and Trustee of mental health organisation, Mind. The discussion was facilitated by Clara Blackings, Marketing Officer at Oxford Brookes.

This made for an interesting and varied discussion, with each of us able to offer a unique perspective based on our different mental health and arts experience.

To give a brief summary of the discussion, we covered:

  • The link between creativity and mental illness. People often say that those who are deeply creative have a higher risk of mental ill health. Whilst there is some evidence to support this notion, studies are limited in their sample sizes and are often criticised for being biased.

  • The utility of art and creativity as a means of expression to manage mental health. Some people do indeed find it easier to express their feelings through drawing, painting or drama. This can be a healthy and helpful outlet.

  • Language. The film showed how stigma surrounding mental illness seeps into dialogue, with Van Gogh referred to with words such as “nut case” and “weak”. Nowadays, thanks to education and anti-stigma campaigns by organisations such as Rethink Mental Illness, we thankfully do not hear such damning language as often. But there is clearly still some way to go.

  • The concept of recovery in mental health. The characters in the film talk about how they thought Vincent was “cured”. We discussed how we use the notion of ‘recovery’ in mental health wasn’t based around the complete eradication of symptoms. Instead, Individuals work towards personalised goals, gain control and work on living meaningful lives. We discussed how ‘recovery’ is a journey and an ongoing process

  • Communication. We discussed the importance of mental health professionals being able to develop therapeutic relationships with service users and how we help pre-registration Nursing students build on their communication skills. This is a fundamental nursing skill and without it further interventions are unlikely to be successful.

  • Practical Help. One audience member asked how she could help a friend in distress. Being there for them is key and letting people know you care is often the best way to start. Refer to the Mind website for available services and self-help tips: https://www.oxfordshiremind.org.uk/

As a passionate advocate for mental health, it was an honour to be part of the discussion and the event and I hope that those who attended left feeling informed and stimulated.