New short film aims to dispel stigma around schizoaffective disorder

·2 min read

The team behind a new film screening at the Victoria Film Festival is hoping to reduce the stigma around the ideas of psychosis and psychotic breaks.

Robyn Thomas is the director of Follow My Brain, a documentary about Cam Webster, who has schizoaffective disorder.

In the collaborative effort, Webster, 25, talks about his diagnosis with schizoaffective disorder as a 19-year-old boxer. He struggles with leaving the sport to manage his illness and then he eventually returns to it with the support of his friends, family, coach and therapist.

"It's a candid, optimistic story about my recovery. The main message is you can recover. You can return to what you love and still do all the things you want to do," said Webster.

Naomi Devine
Naomi Devine

Thomas says she hopes the film serves as a corrective to how mental illness is portrayed in the media and pop culture.

"We often do hear about things like depression and anxiety in the media. These are important things to hear about, absolutely, but there's still a lot of fear and misunderstanding when it comes to psychosis. People get confused. They don't understand what it is. And there's unfortunately a lot of stereotypes in the media that we are presented with," Thomas said.

Both Webster and Thomas are currently studying about mental illness. Webster is studying Mental Health and Addiction at Camosun College, and Thomas is pursuing a Masters in Global Mental Health at the University of Edinburgh. Webster is interested in eventually becoming a social worker, and Thomas is interested in how narratives around mental health can affect recovery.

"[The film] doesn't sugar-coat what it is like to live with mental illness. It really shows an authentic portrayal of what it's like and how it not only impacts the individual, but it impacts the whole family and the wider community. I think Cam's story really shows us it takes a whole community when we're talking about dealing with mental health. It's inspiring. It's hopeful, and it's also very real," Thomas said.

The Victoria Film Festival, which is entirely online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, runs Feb. 5 to 14.