Héréditaire: Film explores mental illness in families
Posted by Admin
9th Feb 2018

SANE has joined with Bear Jam to release a short film exploring hereditary mental health.

The video, titled Héréditaire, was shot on location in Brittany, France, and portrays a man’s fear that he will suffer from depression as did his father.

The film follows the man’s isolating and physically demanding work on an oyster farm, but his internal thoughts become overwhelming: “My father gave it to me… Something dark came up and took him away… Something that surely waits for me.”

Drawing on personal experience, Bear Jam’s creative director James Hilditch developed the narrative with poet Mark Waldron. The result is a film which explores the subject of mental illness in families.

James says: “The hereditary nature of mental health is something that I’ve been concerned about since my early twenties. Knowing that there is a history of depression in my family has influenced a number of choices I’ve made in my life. I try to watch out for symptoms or behaviour patterns related to depression. I also keep fit and keep an eye on the amount of alcohol I drink. I think that being conscious of this has certainly helped me and I want the film to encourage people to see if mental health runs in their family and take steps to reduce or prevent it in their own lives.”

Most people with a mental illness do not have family members with the same illness. However, research does suggest that mental illness, in particular severe mental illness, can run in families. For example, schizophrenia is estimated to affect one in 100 people in the general population, but where there is family history that chance has been found to increase. In the case of one biological parent having the condition, the chance has been found to be 13 in 100, while for both parents it is 45 in 100.

A study of the genetic sequences of more than 50,000 people by the Cross-Disorder Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium has also found five psychiatric disorders, including bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder, may have common genetic risk factors. Some of these genetic variations involve how calcium moves through the brain.

Despite these findings, it is too simplistic to regard mental disorders as being significantly genetic. We do not know what causes mental illness, or to the extent at which it can be passed on through genes. There is a large amount of scientific evidence that shows that environmental factors are also involved. These are all important reasons why greater investment is needed into mental health research.

One of SANE’s main aims is to promote and facilitate research into the causes of mental illness, and SANE is the only mental health charity to have built its own research centre, The Prince of Wales International Centre for SANE Research in Oxford. Our flagship building hosts teams of researchers looking at the relationship between mind and brain and the role of treatments and therapies.

Anybody concerned about their own mental health or that of someone they know can call SANEline, our confidential helpline providing emotional support, guidance and practical information, on 0300 304 7000 from 4.30pm to 10.30pm.

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