This Can Happen Partners Create Innovative Audio Project - Headtrip: Hearing Depression

In 2017 Rebecca Hatchett, Lucia Scazzocchio and Ella Saltmarsh partnered up with Kings College London to produce Headtrip: Hearing Depression. An experience we’re looking forward to bringing to our guests at This Can Happen. Today we talked to Rebecca about the project, how it came about and the hopes she has for its future.

I’m not a mental health expert, I’ve come to this project from a more personal perspective; having lost a very close friend to suicide and being witness to the traumatic experience of her death. I am also a friend to others who suffer greatly at times with their mental health, so I wanted to use my experience to raise awareness and reduce the stigma that surrounds depression. In terms of my professional experience, over the last 20 years I've worked across the education and cultural heritage sectors - producing training, educational experiences and events.

Much of my work has used co-creation processes, where the product is co-produced with the service user, to ensure it captures lived, rather than purely interpreted, experiences. In 2015 I set up S.I.D.E Projects, an associate based organisation that brings together teams to deliver projects for social good. Headtrip came about through connections and serendipity. I wanted to co-produce something creative to help reduce stigma around mental health and met an audio producer and Social Broadcaster who was exploring how to use audio to create an immersive experiences to better understand mental health conditions - how to enable people to hear those internal voices.

We teamed up with Ella Saltmarsh, a script writer and force for social good, and Prof Ricardo Araya, King’s College London Professor of Global Mental Health. Together we conceived Headtrip and applied for Cultural Kings ‘Arts in Mind’ funding to support the production. We were delighted to be awarded the funding. Although it was a small amount, it enabled us to proceed with an initial pilot. Like me, every member of the team had their own personal, as well as professional, reasons for getting involved, so we were all dedicated, despite the financial restrictions. The key was to find co-creators willing to share their own lived experience.

We put a call out for a range of people to get involved, from those with first-hand lived experience of depression and those who had experienced through front-line work. Nine people attended our first focus group, many of whom continued on the project at different stages. We were prepared to find the first group reluctant to share such personal experiences in such an open forum and that we might have to try a number of different formats to really understand the lived experience. However the group not only appreciated being given the chance to talk openly with others who had experienced something similar to themselves, but suggested that this type of open discussion was very much needed. It also turned out that many who had signed up as front line workers, opened up that they had their own first-hand experiences too.

We followed up with 1-2-1 interviews and other co-creation sessions, but this first focus group stood out as a real eye opener into just how few opportunities there are for people to just share and talk openly. Once we had gathered the information we needed, we moved into production stage, again working with our co-creators at key mile stones to ensure the audio matched up to their combined experiences. The resulting audio piece is a fictional interpretation, based on our co-creator's lived experiences. It depicts one person's struggle with depression. We used Lucia’s incredible binaural recording and sound design expertise to take the listener into the inner workings and voice of our fictional character, making the experience as immersive as possible. Once the audio was ready, we held listening events to test the experience on different audiences.

We received some really incredible feedback - from depression sufferers thanking us for ‘hearing them’, to professionals seeing it’s potential benefit in their workforce, to medical students saying it is the best thing they’ve come across in terms of helping them understand the condition. In terms of future, we are keen for the audio to be used to raise awareness and reduce stigma. Already, King's College have expressed an interested using it in their medical training courses, which would be a great outcome for us. We’re also interested in producing other scenarios and conditions. We think binaural audio journeys, like Headtrip, could have real value in the workplace, which is why we have partnered with This Can Happen. We’re really excited to hear what the guests think and to explore possibilities through the event'.

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I left with renewed energy, practical solutions and confident with the knowledge that having a Wellbeing Strategy should happen, must happen, can happen! Looking forward to 2020 already!

Karen Greville-Woods, Office Manager, Withers & Rogers Group LLP