The Problem Of Silence

Katie Briefel interviews Tim Smith, producer of UBTV’s first-ever documentary which tackles the stigma attached to mental health issues

Proving there’s more to them than just fun nightclub videos, this week UBTV released their first documentary, ‘The Problem of Silence’, which examines the difficulties faces by students suffering from depression and other mental health issues.

“There’s a real lack of understanding”, said Tim Smith, the producer of the documentary, when asked for the reason behind his desire to make the documentary. He went on to say some of his friends have suffered and had found the first stages of seeking help difficult for various reasons.

A problem Tim identified was a lack of communication surrounding the problem with people less willing to talk about it for fear of the stigma that’s attached to it.

In his view, a lack of communication prevents people getting help. “The taboo needs to be eroded. It needs to be treated differently and people need to keep talking about it.”

No students featured in the documentary claim to know anyone going to student counselling

Tim thinks the University support systems in place already are quite good – for instance, the charity counselling service. However, they are oversubscribed and run on a 6-session programme which isn’t really enough to treat the problems on a long-term basis.

“You can’t put a time-limit on treating the problem in this way.”

When asked what the biggest obstacles were when producing the documentary, Tim cited finding people to speak openly and on camera about their problems as a big one. “It’s very brave, sharing information like that. It’s quite a big deal talking about a very personal problem.”

Tim wanted to take the opportunity to thank the two anonymous people who spoke about their experiences in front of the camera. “I’d like to say a massive thank you to them. It was so brave to have the courage to speak out and bare yourself like that. The documentary wouldn’t have happened without them.”

Tim was immensely grateful to the anonymous students who were willing to share their experiences on film

The production process has taken two terms for Tim to put together, with the editing taking the longest time. “It was a steep learning curve”, he says, and weird for him that all his work manifests itself in just 15 minutes of film.

When asked what projects he has in store next, Tim says he is interested in doing something on homelessness because of the same taboos still surrounding the issue and the misconceptions that people have. He said he is interested in the stories about before people become homeless; what their lives were like before they got to that stage.

His advice to other students who are interested in filming similar documentaries is to have a go and do it. He adds it is rare to have all of the resources available to you. “UBTV are really supportive”.

When asked what the main things he has taken away from the experience, Tim responds: “persistence is a massive thing. If you keep looking hard enough you’ll find people who are willing to speak about their experiences.”

He finishes by saying it’s important when producing to remember to “listen, engage and keep trying”.

Produced by Tim Smith
Directed by Natalie Collins
Presented by Lucy McCallum