Mental Health Care: CoolTan Arts movies and the real story of Personalisation in UK

What is personalisation? How is it implemented? This is the question that a media project realised by the charity organization CoolTan Arts – based in London and run by and for people with mental distress – is aiming to answer.

Personalisation, originated in the States during the 1940s as a result of the civil right movements, is a government scheme recently introduced in the UK to support people with disability and mental issues. It is about distributing money through social services and local authorities as a personal budget to enable successful applicants in terms of freedom and control over their lives. An individual recognised as eligible can invest the money in any kind of activity enhancing his or her own wellbeing. In other words, it is a way to let people choose the kind of care and support they need.

CoolTan Arts project, consisting of two short animations and one documentary collectively produced by the charity’s participants, started last year and was screened for the first time at the British Film Institute of London the 25th of March. First of all, it is aimed at giving an explanation of what personalisation is in practical terms, as very few people are aware of its existence. By giving voice to people who have had a first-hand experience of the personalisation process, these movies tell the story of those who have been trying to build-up a new life again: from the one who wants to take guitar lessons, to the one who wants to study math; from the one who wants to learn how to cook, to the one who just wants the choice to go to the hairdresser and resume a respectable appearance, so people will stop calling them a “crackhead” on the street.

Secondly, it sheds light on some grey and tragic areas around personalisation. 90% of the people who try to fill out the 30 pages long application for the personalisation budget– who are actually very few as not many people even know about personalisation and the right to apply at all – are finally declared not eligible. The reason behind this is the government intent to reduce the public expenditure in times of crisis. However, the films make clear that these “cuts” actually cost the government more in the long term. When an individual suffering from mental distress does not find any motivation and meaning in life, it is likely that he/she will have a breakdown, often placing him/her in a public hospital or psychiatrist ward, where the government has to pay for professional help and medication which cost much more than the money saved by the cuts. As Michelle Baharier, chief executive of CoolTan Arts, said on the occasion of the BFI screening, mental wellbeing is something that needs to be sustained more than reached, otherwise crisis and suicide occur.

The screening was aiming to catch the attention of anyone who was interested, but primarily at policy makers. Of the many who were invited, only one showed up. The councillor pointed out that there are politicians interested in the subject and willing to listen, although they are few. The majority underestimate the role of prevention in making the countrycost effective. He recognised the importance of the project to raise awareness for the cause and the need for more education and campaigning on this issue.

For those who feel interested, the trilogy is already partially available on YouTube. The rest will be made available soon.

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