‘NHS mental health crisis’: Hackney director’s film inspired by ‘heart wrenching’ delay accessing treatment

Film maker Ivana Rados

Film maker Ivana Rados - Credit: Archant

Stamford Hill filmmaker Ivana Rados tells Emma Bartholomew about her ‘heart-wrenching’ difficulty accessing mental health treatment on the NHS.

Film maker Ivana Rados

Film maker Ivana Rados - Credit: Archant

The nine-month gap between the day Ivana Rados sought treatment for clinical depression and the day she was finally able to access counselling inspired her to make a film about what she believes is a crisis in mental health services.

Her piece, This Could Happen to You, focuses on a flamboyant, eccentric character, Mr Zabritski, played by Guy Combes, who employs various disguises in his pursuit of psychiatric help for schizophrenia.

But his attempts to get past Lauren, the hawkish receptionist at the mental health centre, fall on deaf ears. Worn out by the “computer says no” bureaucracy, he is forced to employ drastic measures to get himself sectioned.

Ivana, 36, who lives in Stamford Hill, personally found it “heart wrenching” not to get the treatment she felt she needed sooner.

“From the moment one seeks referral to the initial psychiatric evaluation, several months or years will pass,” she said.

“They keep on postponing and postponing and you can’t help yourself. They put you on medication and stuff but what you really asked for is talking therapy, and it’s really hard to live through all these changes and not be able to get out of bed.

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“The easiest way [to deal with it] was to do something about it and make a film about it.

“I got the appointment in the meantime because a film takes a long time to make.”

Statistics show one in four people suffer from a mental health issue, but only a fraction will ever be seen by a specialist.

“I didn’t have to research very far,” said Croatia-born Ivana.

“Most of my friends are going through the same thing if they can’t afford to go private.

“I’m not putting any blame on the NHS – it’s over stretched and it’s a free service, and they are trying to accommodate everyone.

“But if you need help and the problem isn’t getting solved, you aren’t making yourself any better.

“You’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

She found working with stand-up comedian and actor Guy, who plays the Milk Cowboy in the Cravendale milk ads, rewarding.

“He has lots of this raw energy that he has to tame,” she said.

“He followed the script but he also came up with lots of things himself on the day, and rather than being frustrated with him I was applauding him.

“I think it gives this disconcerted energy to the film – this kind of quick craziness and charisma.

“You don’t see many short films where a character completely speaks to you and then he makes you laugh and then makes you cry and I think he’s a brilliant actor for it.”

Ivana has an MA in film theory from Birkbeck, and decided to “take the plunge” and set up her own production company, Antagonist Films, after working in museums for several years.

This is her third film, following on from I Do – which is about a woman who wakes up in a wedding dress in a room scattered with half-finished wine glasses – and Love At First Rape, which explored the aftermath of rape.

This Could Happen to You had its premiere in Elephant and Castle last week.

Now Ivana is pushing to get the work shown at short film festivals.

“Trying to do it to a certain professional level is really hard, and I’ve been doing everything myself,” she said.

“It has been hard but also very rewarding.

“Film is a very powerful medium, a good way to express yourself politically and emotionally.

“It combines the writing and the visuals and I always think if it’s a good film then it lasts with you and you always remember it.”