Psychosis on Screen

A season of three contemporary films depicting various experiences of psychosis.
Oliver Watson, Senior Project Manager, Bristol Health Partners

Project overview

Watershed and Bristol Health Partners put together this season to increase awareness of psychosis and to launch the Psychosis Health Integration Team (HIT), which works to improve the support, treatment, services and lives of people with psychosis in the Bristol area.

The season was designed to uncover the creativity often inherent in psychosis and to develop a shared, more human understanding of these sometimes frightening experiences. The project brought together more than 300 people to challenge viewers’ preconceptions of mental health.

On 27 June, the season culminated with In the Real, a documentary by local filmmaker and psychoanalyst in training Conor McCormack, which attracted 170 people. For the past three years, Conor has documented the Bristol Hearing Voices Network – a self-help group for people who hear voices and have other unusual experiences. The film, which depicts the experiences of these people in frank and unflinching detail, challenges both the viewer’s preconceptions of psychosis, and the mental health profession’s response to it.

The screening was followed by a question and answer session with members of the Bristol Hearing Voices Network, giving the audience a unique opportunity to hear from the people in the film.

Headline results

  • 328 filmgoers attended over three screenings
  • 170 attended the screening of ‘In the Real’
  • 45 attendees for the Psychosis HIT Launch Event
  • 44 free tickets used by service users and carers


Monday 13 June – ‘Keane’ (2004)
• Welcome by Mark Cosgrove (Cinema Curator), Simon Downer (Psychosis HIT Co-Director) and Conor McCormack (filmmaker)
• Introductory talk by Nathan Filer (local author & mental health nurse)
• Discussion session facilitated by Nathan Filer and Conor McCormack

Monday 20 June – ‘Every Little Thing’ (1997)
• Introductory talk by Simon Downer and Conor McCormack
• Informal discussion in Watershed café/bar

Monday 27 June – ‘In the Real’
• Introductory talk by Dr Angela Woods (Co-Director, Hearing the Voice, Durham University)
• Q&A Panel facilitated by Dr Angela Woods involving filmmaker and film participants
• Psychosis HIT Launch Event

Learning outcomes

Filmgoers were asked to fill out a survey with two questions at each screening:
1. What have you learned this evening about living with psychosis?
2. We’re planning future events to raise awareness of psychosis – what do you think we
should focus on?

We received 65 responses across the three screenings.

Learning about Psychosis

Responses indicated a wide variety of learning taken from the season. For example, this
ranged from comments about the perceived harmfulness of medication, the power of the
creative arts and reflections about understanding more about the challenges and sometimes comforts that experiences of psychosis can bring for people.

  • “Compassion, art and activities, respect all helps. More natural environment, more equality, patience.” – Filmgoer, ‘Every Little Thing’
  • “That the experience of hearing voices can be enriching and can be a big part of individuals’ identity and reflect their spiritual and world view. I have been very focused on helping people in their recovery from a medical perspective and less so in listening to and respecting their viewpoint.” – Filmgoer, ‘In the Real’

Many respondents reflected that the experience of psychosis can be very different for
different people:

  • “Everyone’s reality is different. Listen to the individual experience.” – Filmgoer, ‘In the Real’
  • “It could be different for every individual. A person is not their behaviour.” – Filmgoer, ‘Keane’

For a number of respondents, the events reinforced their knowledge or perceptions about

  • “I am reminded of the need for broad range of services for individuals living with psychosis.” – Filmgoer, ‘Every Little Thing’
  • “It has reinforced how important the multidisciplinary approach is.” – Filmgoer, ‘In the Real’
  • “Not [learned] much – but reinforced demonstrating that obvious need for time and space and activity which has been largely lost in local provision – and in society (time and space anyway).” – Filmgoer, ‘Every Little Thing’

One respondent suggested they hadn’t learned much from the event they attended (above). One other suggested that they weren’t sure what they had learnt, but that it had been a “jumping off point for finding out more”.

Comments about the films

There were comments which suggested a film selected wasn’t appropriate or
engaging. These were all made in relation to ‘Every Little Thing’.

  • “The film was interesting but I don’t think it gave much indication of the reality of the majority living with psychosis. For anyone not knowing much about it already, I don’t see how it would inform them much/present a true picture.” Filmgoer, ‘Every Little Thing’
  • “I was bored by the film.” Filmgoer, ‘Every Little Thing’

Priorities for future awareness raising activities

The following suggestions were made of the types of activity the HIT should pursue:

  • More films
  • Use other art forms to start discussion (Visual art, Novels, Poetry, Theatre)
  • Discussion sessions with some preparatory or follow-up reading
  • Presentations from people who have experienced psychosis and their supporters

Often, reference was made to specific films, books or case studies.

Several filmgoers gave suggestions for how the HIT should approach awareness raising:

  • Challenging stigma/myth busting (including positive images of people with psychosis)
  • Carry on inviting people with concessionary tickets
  • Bear in mind people without personal or professional experience
  • Focus on specific dimensions of psychosis (e.g. drug induced psychosis, medication,
    talking therapies, helpful comments for talking to people who experience psychosis)

Many respondents called for the HIT to continue to make sure that people who experience
psychosis and those close to them are at the centre of activity:

  • “First hand experiences from people who live with psychosis – in their own words and
    expressed however they feel is best. Also, I think it’s be interesting to hear experiences from people who live and work alongside these people.” – Filmgoer, ‘Every Little Thing’

Launch event feedback

At the Psychosis HIT Launch on 27 June, attendees were invited to complete an evaluation form which asked both about the event and the film season more generally. Eight paper responses were received.

Launch overall

Positive feedback regarding the structure and booking process. Less enthused about the HIT information provided, but overall appreciated as a learning opportunity.
Comments included wanting more information about the HIT, wanting structured discussion after the second film and praising the use of an arts/cultural venue for the launch.

Knowledge gained

Comments described the importance of service users’ perspectives and a broader understanding of psychosis. One respondent suggested they may be more “out” about their own experiences of psychosis as a result of the knowledge gained. Another noted they would bring the knowledge to their supervision of mental health staff. Two others said they would continue as they were, or needed more information.

Most relevant aspects

Four people suggested the films and discussion was the most useful part of the season for them. Two highlighted ‘networking’ as the most useful or relevant aspect. One respondent noted “it was great to be in a public place with lots of other people who have experienced psychosis”.

Elements that could have been improved

One respondent suggested the launch was the least useful/relevant aspect. Another said they were unsure what the launch would consist of so found it hard to “sell” to other people. One respondent found the first two films “hard work”. Another suggested that the films had been too focused on men’s experiences.

Media coverage

The season generated significant media interest in the Psychosis Health Integration Team. Activity included:

About people attending

Respondents were made up of HIT members, members of public, service users, carers, and voluntary sector employees.

What next?

The Psychosis Health Integration Team aimed to build on the significant enthusiasm and creativity this film season produced.


  • Consider all of the suggestions made for future awareness raising activity and agree a plan for new events
  • Host our Peer Director led User and Carer forum to understand and respond to the priorities of people who experience psychosis

Psychosis on Screen challenges mental health preconceptions

Rewriting psychosis – the Psychosis HIT’s public engagement event

To find out more about the Psychosis HIT, please visit our Bristol Health Partners website.