Gerry Farrell: Loo paper's roll in taking on mental health taboos

Back in October, me and a Glasgow PR company called Wire entered a competition called The Creative Shootout. Anybody could have a go. To get into the final we had to produce 60 seconds of film or audio about mental health.

Wednesday, 25th January 2017, 9:00 am
One in four of us will have mental health difficulties at some point in our lives. Picture: PA

This year, the competition was sponsored by two mental health charities, Mind and Rethink. One of the nastiest forms of discrimination against people with mental health problems is calling them names. You would hope that once people left school they would grow out of it. But they don’t. In fact there are still editors in the mainstream media who allow words like “Psycho” and “Madman” in their headlines.

If your mind is troubled, sensationalist labels like that just make you feel worse.

And they stigmatise mental health issues, making people believe that having that kind of problem is something to be ashamed of.

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Ewan McGregor and Kelly Macdonald pose on the orange carpet. Picture: Getty

Of course it isn’t. There’s just something wrong with you, like a broken ankle or appendicitis. It might be harder to heal but it certainly isn’t something you should hide from your friends or family.

One in four of us will have mental health difficulties at some point in our lives. It’s time that was normalised. With this in mind, we made a film that raced through all the hateful, often unprintable insults people hurl at the mentally ill, finishing with the line “Mind Your Language’”

That film got us through to the last eight in Britain and on Thursday four of us went down to London for the live final.

This was where the name “Creative Shootout” really started to mean something. Because this is the deal: you get briefed at 10am; you have four hours to think up a creative idea; then you have to present your idea to a live audience of 200 people in the main cinema at BAFTA. I don’t scare easy but my heart was thumping. The brief was tough: get men talking about mental health.

Ewan McGregor and Kelly Macdonald pose on the orange carpet. Picture: Getty

Men aren’t great talkers to start with. When it comes to mental health, they’re clams. They think it’s a weakness to share difficult feelings with their friends. The result can be tragic. Suicide is the leading cause of death among 35-49 year-old men.

Like something out of the Apprentice, a shiny black car took us to a hotel. We were put in a room to try and crack the brief. Four hours later, a shiny black car took us back to BAFTA and the show began.

Each team had 15 minutes to pitch their idea and we got to watch all the pitches. We were last on. Finally it was our turn. Then the judges went off to pick the winner.

I’d like to say it was us but it wasn’t. A London company called Mischief won. Their idea was funny and provocative. They found out that men spend an average of 1 hour 45 minutes sitting on the toilet every week.

Most of these men can’t be *rsed talking about mental health. But if there were facts and stories about the problem printed on thousands of toilet rolls?

That was the idea. Their slogan was BE *RSED ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH and they proposed putting their printed toilet rolls into public loos in cinemas, at football grounds and in pubs and clubs. I thought it was funny and clever. So did the judges. The plan is to launch the campaign on February 2 on Time To Talk Day 2017.

If it gets men thinking and talking about mental health or saves even one life, it will have been worth it.

They gadgies look kinda famous, like

Trainspotting is the film that put Leith on the map. I remember the first time I read the book how it felt like stepping right into someone else’s mind and speaking in their voice. When the film came out I was first in the queue to see it.

The characters I was queueing with looked like they’d just walked out from between the covers of the book. Danny Boyle’s movie was a rollercoaster of horror and comedy and a window into the world of heroin addiction.

For once, we got an honest account of the true meaning of Lou Reed’s Perfect Day which sounds like a weekend walk in the park but is actually all about the impact of taking heroin. The song kicks in just as the needle goes into Renton’s arm and he trips his way into the back of an ambulance.

Fair play to Ewan McGregor for making a Hollywood career out of the role. I thought he sounded like a posh, Perth grammar school boy. Maybe he had to water it down for the Americans.

That didn’t stop me getting wrapped up in the hype surrounding T2. Twenty years on, I’m as curious as everyone else in Leith about seeing the sequel.

So on Sunday we went online and got tickets for the 6.30pm show. We drove down Fountainbridge on the night. As we got closer to Cineworld, I was surprised to see a searchlight probing the night sky.

I thought nothing of it till we got to the multiplex. It was surrounded by security people in luminous jackets. Sleek people carriers were pulling up at the kerb.

We jumped out the car just in time to hear Kelly MacDonald being interviewed live by Edith Bowman. A massive stereo was blasting her words into the cold night air. We looked for a way in.

By this time, Danny Boyle was getting interviewed. By the time we found out we were at the World Premiere, Ewan McGregor’s voice was booming out.

I’d got the date wrong, hadn’t I? Our tickets were for next Sunday. Trainspotting Two, the Second Coming, will have to wait another week.

Come on the Jambos (honest)

IN an astonishing act of turncoatery, I’ll be rooting for the Jambos at tonight’s replay against Raith Rovers. Why? Come on, it’s obvious. If they win they’ll be up against the Scottish Cup holders, Neil Lennon’s merry men and what green- blooded Leither doesn’t want the chance to dump them out the competition for the second year running?