Can Filmmaking Help with Children’s Mental Health?

As we mark Children’s Mental Health Week 2022, we’re taking a look at the different ways filmmaking and other activities can support with improving children’s mental health.

Children’s mental health is at the forefront of conversation, with increasing rates of mental health referrals, increased anxieties and mental health concerns in children and young people. Recently the BBC found that last year, there was a 77% rise in severe mental health referrals for under 18s in the UK.

But there is a lot we can do – both large and small – to improve children’s mental health.

Here, we share some of the insights behind how filmmaking can help us all to feel better, with some ideas and resources that can help to improve mental health and wellbeing in children and young people.

Can Filmmaking Help with Children’s Mental Health?

Yes, both film and filmmaking can help in improving children’s mental health (and adult’s mental health too).

This is something we experience at Sparks nearly every day, sometimes in small ways, and sometimes through much more targeted efforts on our youth filmmaking projects.

For instance, a child may attend one of our filmmaking workshops feeling a bit down, but by the end of the session, they feel happier and more confident.

As this happens repeatedly over time, this helps to build up increased feelings of wellbeing, reduced feelings of isolation and resilience to anxiety or other mental health issues

There are few reasons behind this. In the example here – that a child has attended and taken part in a filmmaking class – they’re also participating in a group activity, where it’s more than likely that they’ll have had to speak up and communicate with other children their own age. This means that they will share an experience of working together, communicating and expressing ideas. Just the simple act of talking and sharing a connection can work wonders for improving mental health.

At the same time, they are also making something. Being purposeful and investing energy into a project or a task that you can see developing, whether it’s a film, or a painting, or building a Lego kit, gives us all a sense of achievement. Seeing our efforts come to fruition helps to give us our own sense of worth. This helps to build our confidence, especially if it’s doing a task or an interest we enjoy. We can start to see our progress and possibly also begin to see that we are ‘good’ at something. This gives us a renewed sense of purpose and increased self-belief.

This doesn’t just apply to filmmaking.

Creative activities are particularly good for this, because it combines the satisfaction of making progress with the subjective nature of creative expression. We’re expressing ourselves as we make, play or do.

Taking part in any activity that links to a personal interest can be a great way to take your mind off things you may be worried about. It can give your mind space to focus on something else, which in turn offers a greater sense of perspective. Our worries can quickly seem a bit less, once we’ve had a bit of space away from them. Playing a sport, or a game, or switching focus into something we enjoy, even for a few moments a day, can all help to give us some time and space away from our worries.

What About Watching Films?

If you’re not necessarily a maker of films, but enjoy watching them, then watching films or TV can also be an option to help improve someone’s mood and help to improve overall mental health.

Do you have a favourite “feel good” film?

Or a film that you remember from childhood? Reconnecting with memories and revisiting old favourites can help to lift your mood, as well as offer some movie escapism.

Watching films together with friends, or as a family, can also help to bring people together. Turning film watching into a social activity can be a great way to bond and to open up possibilities for shared experiences.

There are some really great examples of films that can be helpful in opening up conversations around feelings and around mental health. This can be particularly effective for improving children’s mental health, it can be helpful for children to learn that they aren’t the only ones experiencing worries or anxieties.

The Disney film Inside Out or Goodbye Christopher Robin are good examples of films that can work well for younger children, as well as more mature films that deal with mental health directly for teenagers or young adults. Take a look at Girl, Interrupted or Little Miss Sunshine.

Of course it doesn’t all have to be about film. (That’s just what we love, but everyone has different interests and different activities that might work for them. Try out exploring some new things and see what helps you or your child to feel a bit happier).

Children’s Mental Health Week 2022

This year, Children’s Mental Health Week has the theme of Growth.

There are lots of different activities featured on the Children’s Mental Health Week website, which help to explore the theme and consider the different ways we can look at personal growth as a way of boosting children’s mental health.

We really like their Support Balloon activity, why not give it a try?

Other Resources:

There are lots of other resources to support children’s and youth mental health.

Take a look at the Young Minds website for some ideas.

You can also take a look at some of our youth mental health focused community film projects for some inspiration. Have a go at making your own film along these lines too.

What It’s Like to Be Me

We partnered up with Kids Inspire, a youth mental health charity, to make films that explored young people’s feelings, some preconceptions and misconceptions about their lives and also explored their hopes for the future.

Try making your own version of ‘What It’s Like to Be Me’. You can make an autobiographical film, a documentary, a dramatisation, or something completely abstract. It’s completely up to you.

Moving Minds

As part of Into Film’s Moving Minds programme, we partnered with Hammersmith Academy and Bromley CAMHS to produce live action films and drawn animations around themes of youth mental health, different perspectives and dealing with mental health issues.

Try making your own film about changing perspectives. How can you see the same thing differently?

If you’d like to know more about our mental health community projects, take a look at our Sparks Communities work.

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Student testimonials

Rachel Woolcott

Parent

Great camp to develop creativity and for children to learn about film making. In this short period of time the teachers were engaging; the group developed a story for a short film, acted, set the scenes and were behind the camera, my son loved the activities.

Seb.

Young Filmmaker

I've learned so much here I don't know where to start.
I’ve learned how to shoot a film properly, how to compose a shot. I’ve learned how to edit, how to take an idea and turn it into something you can see on the screen. It’s been amazing.

Guilia Merlo

Parent

My 7 year old had the best time at Sparks summer camp, it really helped him grow his confidence too! He was initially reluctant to be in front of the camera, we were reassured by Sparks that he wouldn't need to but once he was there, he actually really enjoyed having a few lines in the final movie :) He still speaks highly of his time at Sparks several weeks later!

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