Animated Minds: Stories of Postnatal Depression


This month sees the online release of a series of animated documentary shorts by Mosaic Films for the award-winning Animated Minds project. Coordinated by animation director George Sander-Jackson, Animated Minds: Stories of Postnatal Depression focuses on the devastating mental health problems associated with childbirth, something he experienced within his own family several years ago.

With his firsthand awareness of the distressing impact postnatal depression can have, George developed the series of films with Mosaic’s director Andy Glynne as an extension of their prior, BAFTA-winning Animated Minds project with funding from Wellcome Trust and SLAM and support from PND charity Bluebell.

The main aim of the series is to spread awareness to families who may be facing similar issues that they are not alone and that with support things can will improve, as well as further educating healthcare professionals as to the best means of support and to communicate the realities of perinatal mental health xanax to the public at large.
With kind support from Aardman Animations who provided a production office for the films to be made from, the five films of the series each tackle the subject from a different perspective via firsthand accounts of parents (interviewed by George at Red Panda Audio) who have gone through PND. These include the viewpoint of a sufferer’s partner, a young mum, the ramifications of appropriate support and treatment not being provided, illness during pregnancy and a rare and extreme form of perinatal illness known as Postpartum Psychosis.
To allow for a variety of engaging animation styles George personally assembled a team of animation directors whose prior experience and design style seemed the best fit for each individual case study as well as the project as a whole.

Abby’s Story (Dir. George Sander-Jackson)

In terms of my experience managing the project, the two big challenges for me were trying to remain professionally objective running such a personal project, and trying to combine the role of producer with directing 1½ of the films. I think because the subject matter is so emotive, my personal, emotional involvement helped in some aspects. But it was good working through final edits and animatics with the directors as this allowed a good exchange between their creative ideas for telling the story and my overall aims for the films collectively, including the key messages and issues that needed to be covered somewhere. The overriding goal was not to shy away from the intensity of the experiences described by the narrator, but to try and ensure a positive conclusion to the story/film. Therefore the key stage was definitely editing the interviews and structuring the narrative. Having no previous experience of interviewing, that also was daunting at first, but I gained confidence from my own experience of the issues I was asking about, which I felt enable me to relate to and empathise with the people I interviewed.

-George Sander-Jackson

Tiff’s Story (Dir. Sally Arthur)

Tiff’s story I think is the untold story of the middle class suburbs. Her experience is more common than we imagine. I am a middle class Mum of two incredible boys, who I have had the privilege of being able to look after at home before they started school. The electricity of being a parent, seeing the world afresh and the role of being a stay-at-home house-person are for me, quite distinct but very much bound up in the role of mother. Tiff’s experience of feeling trapped is something I really recognised. There is much repetition in the role of parenting. This is so rich and also concurrently so challenging. I was lucky to have amazing friends and family to support me in being a Mum but I can so see that PND is a flip of a coin away for any woman regardless of class, ability, sexuality, ethnicity or background.

I was influenced to some degree by 50s design and colours, as my interviewee mentioned feeling stuck in a role akin to a 50s housewife. This was something that resonated strongly with my experience of being a stay-at-home Mum after being employed and supporting myself for several years. I looked at 50s fabric design and colour palettes for inspiration and then evolved the style to fit the budget/schedule restrictions.

Animating is repetitive and hearing some of the interview material over and over did make me feel pretty bleak some days – especially as I know the woman as a friend as well. I felt sad and angry for the women I know who have gone through this and also that it is under-resourced and still often a source of shame. It made it feel more important to do the subject matter justice. I loved the challenge of representing feelings visually and found it fascinating that a few of us used similar visual metaphors for some of the common experiences in our films. The metaphors we created I think help understanding of the feelings within the experience. Live action couldn’t do this and animation has this amazing power.
Working in Bristol with the death of Charlotte Bevan and her baby in the background gave me a kick to make the film count, make it speak to people and be part of George’s vision to encourage more awareness of this illness.

I feel so proud to have worked with George and his amazing team – Magda, Dan, Lucy – to create a body of USEFUL movies – I honestly think they could change lives, get people talking, making it seem OK to discuss perinatal mental health. After years of being at home with my boys and lots of spaghetti bolognese and scooters, working in a supportive positive and fun team was amazing. We talked lots about the material, we got giddy from exhaustion and high on Portuguese almond tart (c/o the Aardman Canteen). So I guess for me the relationships were key – to be in a studio environment again but ALSO creating something so important were both the most valuable parts of the project.

-Sally Arthur

Katie’s Story (Dir. Lucy Izzard)

My background is 2D animation. I normally animate in a traditional way (drawing frame by frame) using Flash. The target audience for my film is/was young mums, aged somewhere between 16 – 22 years old and because my style is quite graphic with bold colours we thought this might be a good match. We did a little show and tell at a creative learning centre for adults (Knowle West Media Centre) and the feedback regarding this style was positive, so we went ahead with it. This formed the basic look and then I layer up textures afterwards to give it a slightly rougher feel.

I found out that a friend of mine was going through PND at the time I was starting this film so I felt even more desire to learn about the condition and make something that could help others experiencing it.
It’s hard to visualise a feeling. Especially in a way that isn’t a cliche. I don’t know whether I was successful at showing the intense dark feeling a person experiences when they go through PND.  I think it’s a hard thing to get across but I hope that one of the scenes in the film struck a cord and triggered a feeling of empathy with some of the viewers. I think Katie’s narration is very emotional and the music which accompanies is beautifully subtle, both of which bring the film alive just as much as the visuals.

Working on the film inspired me to show the feelings Katie experienced in a more abstract then I perhaps normally would. I had limited time to make this film so I really had to stick with something I knew well. The style was very much connected to the audience too.”

-Lucy Izzard

Mike’s Story (Dir. Dan Binns)

Mike’s story wasn’t so much about PND as it was someone whose partner had PND. I think in some ways that made it easier. Some of the interviews describing PND experiences were truly terrifying and hard to fully understand what being in that situation must feel like, but from a perspective of someone being worried about a loved one, trying to understand their situation and and all the stress and heartache, that provided a way in for me that was easier to relate to and hopefully easier for someone watching it too.
Thematically the film was similar to another film I’d made, being about stress, anxiety etc. So I was comfortable working for a design style that suited. The challenge was to make sure I wasn’t treading too much over old ground and trying to design in a way that was purely in response to the brief rather than relying too much on my own preferences. I’m happy with the end result but still not quite sure how successful I was in not relying on my own ‘style’, such as it is!

One of the most valuable practical things to come from the project was working with George to help edit the voiceover alongside the animatic and spending a lot of time on that. It reconfirmed my belief that its probably better to spend more time on the animatic and how the story unfolds than any other aspect of the film.

Ultimately it was just a great project to be involved with and I’m very grateful to George for his relentless hard work, without which I’m very sure it would not have happened.

-Dan Binns

Andrea’s Story (Dir. Magdalena Osinska/George Sander-Jackson)

I co-directed Andrea’s Story together with George Sander Jackson. Our visual style was mainly dictated by Andrea’s very distinctive and visual storytelling and description of her experience; and the style is different to our previous works. The original interview with Andrea was over an hour long, in which she compared her feelings and state of mind to the weather numerous times – for example “I felt black clouds inside me”. This led us to a concept using silhouetted figures with natural images and weather to portray the emotion and narrative. Andrea’s feelings are illustrated by internal weather – blue, sunny sky, storms, burning lava, black clouds or flooding. We felt that this was a powerful visual metaphor to describe this mental illness. We used a combination of footage and time lapse of natural imagery with textures to bring it all together.
We dealt with the subject of the postpartum psychosis which is more severe than postnatal depression. Postpartum psychosis causes hallucinations and delusional thinking. The challenge was to portray as truly as possible the experience, so the audience would understand it, become more familiar, but also not scared. We were on the edge of the two possibilities and we believe we found the balance using the visual metaphor of the internal weather, which made it more accessible.

-Magdalena Osinska

To learn more about Mosaic’s Animated Minds project visit animatedminds.com
If you have any questions or concerns over the issues raised in the films and article please contact a health care professional.  For more information about the perinatal illnesses portrayed see the following links:

PND info and PND charity Bluebell
PP info and Postpartum Psychosis charity APP
Partner/Carer support info

About the Author

Ben Mitchell is a Bristol-based animation/post-production freelancer, independent director, composer and graphic novelist. As a freelancer he has produced animation work for CBeebies, Channel 4, Plymptoons, Somethin'...


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