Whispering for help

Project proposal

I’m currently looking for women of colour aged 18 years and over, based in the UK to participate in my forthcoming project, Whispering for help. The project involves recording women of colour experience with mental health, this will involve a mixture of black and white film portraits and hand written texts by the sitter. I have included an example for you perusal.

If you have any questions or would like to participate please feel free to email me: marie_smith81@icloud.com. Thank you for reading my proposal and I look forward to hearing from you.

Although mental health awareness has gained prominence in recent years, the subject of mental health still remains contentious in some sections of society, in particular the within the Black, Asian and Ethnic minority (BAME) communities. Research into mental health within BAME groups in under researched, but we can find some statics in this area, in particular the 2014 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) which ‘found the prevalence of common mental health problems to vary significantly by ethnic group for women, but not for men. Non-British white women were the least likely to have a common mental health problem (15.6%), followed by white British women (20.9%) and black and black British women (29.3%). Black adults were also found to have the lowest treatment rate of any ethnic group, at 6.2% (compared to 13.3% in the white British group)[1].

The survey also noted that ‘disproportionate rates of people from BAME populations have been detained under the Mental Health Act 1983. A 2016 UK study examining the Mental Health Act 2007 assessments found this to be disproportionality associated with higher rates of mental health conditions and poorer levels of social support, but not due to ethnicity[2]’. These results can be interpreted ‘by a number of factors, including poverty and racism. They may also be because mainstream mental health services often fail to understand or provide services that are acceptable and accessible to non-white British communities and meet their particular cultural and other needs[3].

In light of this, I am proposing to create Whispering for help which will consist of a series of annotated portraits with women of colour aged 18 years and above. I would also like to document the experiences of women from BAME communities who have supported relatives/partners/friends with their mental health as I feel it’s also important to acknowledge the support systems that they provide, and it will be interesting to hear their insights on the wider discourse on mental health within BAME communities. This will provide a necessary juxtaposition to the series and an avenue to look at the implication that mental health has within the community. 

This series will also document the struggles faced and aspirational stories by women from BAME communities, for each sitter I will have four to six portraits with annotations. I propose to take the portraits in an environment that evokes a safe memory; a memory that will allow the sitter to create an environment for them to reflect on themselves and their journey. The handwritten annotations will allow the sitters to have autonomy over their narrative and I will be providing each sitter with A4 paper with some guidance questions.

The annotations won’t be restricted in terms of its content, although I would request up to four handwritten annotated pages on A4 paper to go with each portrait. I will provide a series of guidance questions to help focus their text, of course they can refer to this or not. It’s at their discretion.

Whispering for help will seek to create a series that explores experiences of mental health services in UK as well as providing a platform for dialogue to dismantle the stigma of mental health in BAME communities. 

[1]. Lubian, K., Weich, S., Stansfeld, S., Bebbington, P., Brugha, T., Spiers, N., & Cooper, C. (2016). Chapter 3: Mental health treatment and services. In S. McManus, P. Bebbington, R. Jenkins, & T. Brugha (Eds.), Mental health and wellbeing in England: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014. Leeds: NHS Digital.

[2]. Gajwani, R., Parsons, H., Birchwood, M., & Singh, S.P. (2016). Ethnicity and detention: Are black and minority ethnic (BME) groups disproportionately detained under the Mental Health Act 2007? Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 51(5), 703–711.

[3]. Mental Health Foundation: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/b/black-asian-and-minority-ethnic-bame-communities

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