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Loading Docs: Madness Made Me

Tuesday 21st July 2015

Loading Docs is a launching pad for New Zealand short documentaries which has just released 10 new films. We’ll be featuring each of the films and profiling the directors behind them. 

DIRECTOR PROFILE: NIKKI CASTLE

Screening as part of the New Zealand International Film Festival, Madness Made Me meets prominent mental health care activist Mary O’Hagan as she contrasts her personal diary entries against rigid medical records of her time spent in mental health care facilities.

Running her finger under passages which dismiss her feelings, and compartmentalise her behaviours, O’Hagan humanises behaviours, and shares a moment when she struggled with her mental illness.

Director Nikki Castle long been interested in O’Hagan’s work and story before she started her Loading Docs film.

“I just came across a blog post from Mary that I found really interesting, comparing two accounts of one experience,” Castle says.

The blog post Castle refers to was O’Hagan’s response to having tracked down her medical records, laying them side by side with her diary entries of the same time.

“She was stunned by how different they were, and how belittling they were,” Castle says.

We often don’t hear the story about people having really traumatic experiences then coming out on top.

“The expert take on someone else's experiences are at odds with how most people would define their experiences. It medicalises feelings, emotions, and thought process, [and] reduces someone's experience of a very distressing time to labels, which for some people can help, but for a lot of people doesn’t. For Mary O’Hagan it definitely did not.”

O’Hagan was in her twenties when she first came into contact with mental health services. For her, the experience highlighted systemic weaknesses in mental healthcare and concerning attitudes towards mental illness.

She has since become a world-leading voice for patient rights and mental health services, often drawing on her personal experiences as a patient.

Loading Docs gave Castle an opportunity to share O’Hagan’s story and to an audience who might not usually be familiar with her work.

“She’s completely comfortable with telling this story. She's told it a lot, but in the world of mental health, so this is taking it to a new audience.”

Madness Made Me, which takes its title from O’Hagan’s autobiography, was an opportunity for Castle to explore and share a story about the mental health system with a positive outcome.

“It’s to really give a different view and hope to people who might have experienced something similar to Mary. We often don’t hear the story about people having really traumatic experiences then coming out on top. We often hear about people that have chronic, ongoing problems,” Castle says.

“We wanted to show something that talks about some of the problems that exist in mental health services but mostly talk about this amazing woman.”

Story by Elizabeth Beattie.



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