a photo of Sarah Cowan looking straight at the camera with 'fragile' tape over hear mouth, she is holding 2 fingers up with both hands.

Lara: A Short Film for Mental Health Awareness Week

This Mental Health Awareness Week we’re sharing Lara, a short film created by Clean Break Member Artist Sarah Cowan and artist Deborah Bruce, available to stream for one week only.

The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is isolation. The lockdowns of the past two years have brought this to the forefront of more people’s consciousness, and for the many people who isolation was already a part of life, the affects were amplified. For women in prison or other secure settings, isolation was and continues to be devastating, with the effects also felt sharply for women in the community who already experience mental ill health.

To mark Mental Health Awareness Week this year, we are sharing Lara to watch online until Tuesday 17 May. This short film was created by Clean Break Member Artist Sarah Cowan and artist Deborah Bruce in the first lockdown, as part of Clean Break’s 2 Meters Apart project, and follows a woman who has experienced complex mental health distress.

2 Meters Apart was set up during the first lockdown to give our Members, women with experience of the criminal justice system or at risk of entering it, a creative outlet and an opportunity for connection during an extremely isolating time.

Content Warnings and Self-Care Guide

Some of the themes in the film might be difficult to engage with, particularly if you are personally affected. For this reason, we have created a self-care guide containing content warnings, which we would recommend you read before watching the film.

Watch Lara

Available online until Tuesday 17 May.

Sarah Cowan shares her experience of making Lara and explores the themes of the film:

Deborah Bruce and I started writing together for 2 Meters Apart at the very beginning of the pandemic. All we were given is the title, with no pressure or expectation of a result - we didn’t even know at that point if theatre would ever exist again. We wrote over Zoom, email and WhatsApp, and all of the filming was done on our phones.

2 Meters Apart offered a creative haven in which we could share experiences and reflect on the state of the terrifying world around us in the height of the pandemic.

Creative collaborations definitely reduce feelings of isolation because you connect and work together in such a unique way. Consistency and feeling safe are important too, which, like the writing groups at Clean Break, made it feel like a port in a storm. It gave me a focus when everything was so uncertain, and support and encouragement to try and find my voice and keep going. I believe nurturing human connections through creativity and storytelling is valuable to everyone's mental health and understanding one another is vital to society. Because, when the world falls apart around us, all we have is each other, and no woman is an island.

So, Lara was made during lockdown, a time when the world seemed unreal and frightening when we were kept in our homes and away from loved ones, where conspiracy theories were rife, and relationships were strained in pressure-cooker environments. Some of the things Lara lives with on a daily basis.

Lara is the story of someone who struggles to cope with her experience of the world, her thoughts, her feelings, and her relationships. She finds it impossible to manage and communicate her distress and has become enmeshed within the mental health and criminal justice systems.

The inherent trauma caused by living in theses environments and persistent systemic failings, along with inadequate support, keep her trapped in a cycle of destruction. At this point in her story, she has to move in with her mother after being released from a psychiatric ward to the care of ‘the nearest relative.’

Our digital short aims to capture snapshots of Lara’s world and is part of a much bigger story.

Thank you to the following people for making Lara a reality

Sarah Cowan
Deborah Bruce
Helena Lymbery
Fiona Whitelaw
Catherine Rose Evans
Patch the dog
and to all at Clean Break for supporting this film.

With thanks to Arts Council England, DCMS, National Lottery Community Fund and Camden Giving.

Additional thanks to Jerwood Arts and The Garrick Charitable Trust for their support of new writing at Clean Break.

tags : Productions