Mary O’Hagan spent five years of her early 20s confined to a psychiatric hospital. This short documentary has O’Hagan reading back the doctors' reports on her mental illness, and comparing them with her own journal entries at the time. In turn the film presents a critique of the treatment of mental illness that O’Hagan endured. The film’s title, Madness Made Me, is also that of O’Hagan’s own memoir, which chronicles her experience with mental illness. The film was made as part of Loading Docs, a series of short films made for exhibition online.
In this March 2015 episode of long-running magazine-style show Tagata Pasifika, Sandra Kailahi explores the factors that lead some young pasifika mothers to abandon their newborns. Then hosts Marama T-Pole and Tom Natoealofa interview actor Teuila Blakely, who had her son at 17, about what it was like being a teenage mother, and what needs to change to support others in that situation. Also featured are stories about the Samoan King’s son converting to the Mormon faith, and allegations New Zealand has been conducting surveillance on its Pacific neighbours.
Open Door is a community-based television series that enables groups or individuals to make a documentary about an issue that concerns them. This episode is about the Mental Health Foundation youth group Vibe, which supports young people with mental illness. The doco features Vibe co-ordinators, and also young people who have a mental illness. Craig Harvey, who has bi-polar disorder, and Wallace Stevenson, who has schizophrenia, talk frankly about their conditions and the importance of support from groups like Vibe, as well as family and friends.
The first episode of Jam TV’s 2013 series on inspirational Kiwis follows Helena McAlpine’s journey as she deals with terminal breast cancer. The ebullient spirit of the ex-C4 presenter permeates the episode, as she talks about her mental health struggles, her bucket list, living in the fast line, fishing with mate Clarke Gayford, leaving her daughter without a mum, advocacy work for cancer awareness campaigns, and the ‘McAlpine theory on life’ — choose to be happy. “I really don’t see myself as a sack of sadness”. McAlpine died on 23 September 2015.
In this feature film, Tama, a distressed young man, becomes entwined with five families coping with suicide on a journey from Parihaka to Te Rerenga Wairua. A mysterious woman, Hine-nui-te-pō, prompts Tama to confront the finality of death. Director Paora Joseph (Children of Parihaka) mixes drama and documentary, in the hope his film will provoke kōrero around mental health, and offer a pathway through darkness. Niwa Whatuira (The Dark Horse) and newcomer Hera Foley play the lead roles. Māui’s Hook was set to debut at the 2018 NZ International Film Festival.
“Mental subnormality here is no higher than in other countries. Still it strikes more than one in a thousand.” The subjects of this 1964 NFU documentary are intellectually disabled patients (mostly children) at a Levin psychopaedic hospital, and the trainee nurses who care for them. The narration embodies contemporary healthcare ideas where “retarded” children were seen as patients to be kept “happy among their fellows”, and sheltered from the outside world. By the 90s, institutions like this one (later renamed Kimberley) were overtaken by assisted living.
Harry Varnham was scarred both physically and mentally by his experience of World War One. In this episode of Great War Stories, his family explain why they believe the trauma of war eventually led him to take his own life decades later. Wounded during the Battle of Messines in Belgium, Varnham returned to the front and was seriously wounded again at Le Quesnoy. He was evacuated to London; he was just 19 when his leg was amputated. Back in New Zealand, Varnham married later in life and had two daughters, but he never overcame the mental scars from his time serving in WWI.
"Kevin has a strict daily routine, part of which is about to be taken away — throwing his life into turmoil." The Kevin in question is Solid Gold FM DJ Kevin Black, and the essential part of his everyday routine being removed is … sleep. This second episode of the 2001 Touchdown reality series — in which varied participants deal with deprivation — sees ’Blackie' slowly but surely disintegrating over 70 sleepless hours. Despite caffeine, gym and jigsaws, his performance at memory game Simon suffers, he faces hallucinations, and the delirious results are heard over the airwaves.
This 2016 short film follows a young woman (Florence Noble, from The Jaquie Brown Diaries) as she deals with debilitating panic attacks. On a road trip to a beach party, a friend (Jordan Vaha’akolo) sympathises with her struggles. Later he comes around for a cuppa to be there for her. Director Rachel Ross based the story on her personal experience of severe anxiety. "I was shocked to hear that people were struggling as severely as I was but kept it quiet. They were ashamed. It was this journey and realisation that catapulted the premise of this short film."
Amadi is a Rwandan refugee struggling with his new life in New Zealand. Alone, patronised in his menial job (he’s called “Africa” by a workmate), and anxious about rescuing his family from his war-torn ‘home’; he forms an unlikely connection with the prickly lady living next door. Directed by 2009 Spada New Filmmaker of the Year, Zia Mandviwalla, Amadi joined Eating Sausage, Clean Linen, and Cannes-selected Night Shift to form a quartet of Mandviwalla-made shorts exploring cross-cultural collision. It screened at Melbourne and Hawaii international film festivals.