Groundbreaking new dyslexia documentary
Groundbreaking new documentary by Scottish filmmaker reveals devastating extent of mental health issues among dyslexic Scots
Dyslexia Scotland will host a pre-release premiere of a hard-hitting new documentary film about long-lasting mental health issues experienced by the dyslexic community in Scotland.
The interview footage features Scots with dyslexia opening up about the lifelong trauma and suffering that has stemmed from mental abuse bullying they experienced in school, because of their learning difference.
The release, which forms part of Dyslexia awareness week Scotland, is the first Scottish-made documentary to shine a light on the relationship between dyslexia and mental health.
The film shows Keith Macaldowie, a high school Pupil Support Assistant with dyslexia, opening up about his own struggles with mental health that were prompted by traumatic physical and mental abuse he experienced as a child in school.
Keith said: “One of the reasons I wanted to do this was to be able to give hope to the young people I work with now. Education has changed and that bullying and abuse isn’t as prevalent but they still go through some of the same things I experienced, in terms of self-esteem. I hope that this film shows young dyslexic people who are struggling with their mental health that there is a way through difficult experiences.”
According to a report by the Westminster Achievability Commission “There is a lack of awareness of co-occurrence between conditions, and the association between neurodivergence and mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression” and that evidence shows a “very high incidence of suspected neurodivergence and poor mental health. However very little formal assessment occurs frequently due to cost.”
Glasgow-based Filmmaker Trevor Thomson, himself dyslexic, was motivated to create the film by his own lived experience and trauma.
Thomson received the identification of dyslexia in his 30s while studying at university.
He admitted that speaking about being dyslexic ‘scares’ him yet felt a duty to create a documentary about his, and others’ traumatic experiences and that the experience of making and hearing others’ stories helped him.
On his motivations for making the documentary, Thomson said: “As I talked to people about my personal experiences with dyslexia and mental health, I was surprised that it was such a big issue across the dyslexic community. People seem ashamed and embarrassed, and threatened by the stigma of their dyslexia and compounding issues with mental health. I called the documentary No More Secrets – as I feel I’ve been hiding for a large part of my life, and I feel people need to talk about their journeys with dyslexia.”
The documentary also offers a sense of hope and brighter future to viewers who may be struggling with mental health resulting from dyslexia stigma.
Dyslexia and mental health specialists also feature in the footage, giving solution-focused advice to people with dyslexia about ways they can combat negative thoughts, look after themselves and seek out more nurturing environments.
Pennie Aston, a dyslexia-specialist psychotherapist said: “It is important for people to realise how devastating the emotional repercussions of dyslexia can be. A dyslexic person’s mental health can be impacted profoundly not because they are dyslexic but because of the way they are treated because they are dyslexic.”
“The systematic focus on deficit rather than strengths – throughout their family of origin, school, further/higher education and the workforce – results in someone believing they are unable to fit into society. This can lead to a very, limited, tortured existence.”
“There is a myth that once you survive school, you’ll be ok. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unless someone truly understands that they have a profoundly different (and wonderful) way of processing information and this does not need to be fixed but understood, they will continue to consider themselves tragically lacking in resources to cope in a predominantly linear-based society.”
The documentary also serves as a wake-up call to those who don’t know about the learning difference, and the harm that their words and actions could inflict down the line.
Chief Executive of Dyslexia Scotland Cathy Magee said: “Our charity’s ambition is to make Scotland a dyslexia-friendly country that values its dyslexic community. Sadly, many adults with dyslexia are suffering from severe difficulties with their mental health, often because of how they’ve been treated in school or work.”
“This documentary is both a powerful eye-opener to anyone who isn’t dyslexic, to understand the devastating effect that unsupported dyslexia can have on someone’s mental health, throughout their whole life; and it’s a strong message to the dyslexic community that we hear you, and we’re working for a better future.”
The premier of Dyslexia and Mental Health: No More Secrets by Trevor Thomson is one of the events hosted by Dyslexia Scotland as part of Scotland’s annual Dyslexia Awareness Week ahead of the documentary’s formal release in 2023.