Hidden Live Blog - Young person's involvement and experience.
The people involved in the podcast were: Ameir, Angel, Annie, Ashgan, Sadia, Shuhaney, and Tashinga.
Hidden Live – an immersive experience raising awareness of the challenges faced by young people who struggle with their mental health.
A free immersive experience was first performed in May 2022 at The Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. It is a project that’s funded by two National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) research centres, the Applied Research Collaboration Greater Manchester (ARC-GM) and the Greater Manchester Patient Safety Translational Research Centre (GM PSTRC).
The research centres worked with not-for-profit organisation, Made by Mortals, to recruit ten young people who together created a podcast and performed the show.
One of the young people, Ashgan, 21, talks about their experience working on this project here.
“I personally heard about getting involved through an email that I was sent from the University of Manchester, so I found the Made By Mortals website and called the number about the opportunity. I was emailed with the details straight after our conversation! What excited me about the opportunity was that it was both something creative and to do with mental health. As someone studying Psychology at the time and who also does photography, it was perfect for me. It was an incredible opportunity to gain experience with such a profound organisation. I was also really enthusiastic at the prospect of working with other young people. I felt we needed our voices amplified, which is something I had in common with the other young people in the group.
When I found out we would be recording a podcast as part of the project, I was a bit worried as I’d never done this before. I later found out that it was completely different to what I thought we’d be doing. We made the story ourselves, and we didn’t need to worry about doing anything technical, as this was sorted for us.
We were all from a mixture of backgrounds. For example, Ameir studies Dentistry, Shuhaney is in college and wants to be a teacher, and Sadia works with the council, and, me, Angel, and Annie all studied Psychology at the time. There were differences between us, but lots of similarities, that we built into the storyline.
We all loved the diversity in the group, it really put everyone at ease. We were a mix of ages and genders and from different backgrounds and ethnicities. This really helped when we were creating the characters, and all of the details around their lives. We all had such a range of experiences from our real lives that we could draw on due to the differences in our cultures and unique backgrounds. For example, we decided on the name Adam as it was ethnically ambiguous, so anyone could listen to the podcast and relate to it. We all felt this was important.
The way we were eased into creating the podcast was great, it made the whole experience more fun and less daunting. At first, it was all meetings on Zoom, which was a good way to start and allowed us to bond before we met in person. It was very productive over Zoom, and it was easy to use. The team helped to ease meetings with relaxed introductions, and we had ice breakers to help people become more confident and open. For example, one of the games we played, involved making up a headline for a random image. It was a fun way to start the meeting because there wasn’t any pressure. There was also music to begin with whilst people were joining, so it was never awkward.
I remember being late to the first meeting because of another commitment, but everyone was so welcoming, it was a great environment. I think working in Psychology, Mental Health etc, can have that stereotype of everyone being ruthless and nonchalant, but it was the opposite. It was the most comfortable, caring, and understanding environment I have worked in, and I’m happy I was able to take part and meet amazing people who I’d probably not usually cross paths with.
Building the podcast story was set up in such a way that it almost felt like all we were having meetings, it was fun and we had relaxed conversations. We would talk about our lives, what we liked, who we spent our time with, the experiences we’ve had, and that subtly blossomed into a storyline. I remember Ameir was talking about how he and his best friend had bought cheap silver necklaces to commemorate their friendship. That was added to the script with Adam and his best friend doing the same thing. Another example was when we were talking about how we value our memories, and I mentioned how I hoard receipts from road trips. This found its way into the script as well. Having those personal experiences in there helps the story to feel real even though Adam himself is fictional.
Adam’s story is made up of all the experiences, we as a group, have been through. We felt this made the podcast so relatable for any audience because it’s realistic. Even when it was a potentially upsetting topic about mental health, we were supported and the conversation was so relaxed, it was easy to be open. In that sense, creating the podcast was so positively impactful towards our wellbeing, it was nice for everyone to share experiences in a judgment-free space. All of the little experiences were threaded together to create the podcast by Paul and Chris at Made by Mortals
We met in person for the first time to read through the script, which was exciting. Again, it was a really comfortable environment. I remember, I was fasting for Ramadan, and one of members of staff emailed me beforehand to make me aware that there was a prayer room if I needed to head out. She also let me know the times I could come so I wasn’t surrounded by everyone having their lunch if I wanted. Also, a wheelchair accessible taxi was ordered for Shuhaney. So many efforts were made to make sure we were comfortable, and we all appreciated it.
Listening to the script for the first time was very emotional. It was so original, and it was nice to spot personal experiences and everyone’s individual input. We were all treated like equals. It was clear that everyone had been thought of when putting the script together to ensure our voices were all equally represented. I could not believe that the script came together from all the little bits we talked about. It was surreal hearing it for the first time, and it still feels that way now. Because the conversations had been so casual, comforting and fun, it didn’t feel ‘significant’ enough to create an entire script. Sadia, one of our group, said: “It really made me aware that things like this don’t need to be formal, scary, and intimidating.”
With us all being incredibly happy and proud with the script, it was time to record it. Before recording, myself and the rest of our group expected a ‘traditional’ recording studio, and we were all worried we would mess the recording up. Tashinga, said, “I expected to be in a studio and alone in it, behind a screen, which sounded so awkward.” Sadia added that she “was relieved we were all sitting together, with mics and handheld recording devices. It was more fun!”. Andy, who helped us with the recording, was patient and comforting. Everyone was supportive. We all gave each other a mini applause after our first few recordings. It was a new experience, and I’m grateful I was able to do it in such a patient, supportive environment! There was no pressure, so we were able to record whilst actually enjoying the whole process.
The entire process was great, and the impact was huge. Seeing how other people benefitted from the podcast at the first performance was amazing. We heard how they felt like they could then be open about their experiences and the performance started a discussion between young people, families and professionals. This hugely boosted our confidence to get involved in projects like these, meet new people and share our experiences. Also, like I mentioned, creating the podcast itself and working with people with similar experiences really benefitted us in itself. Sadia spoke about it perfectly when she said it was like ‘indirect therapy’.
A huge thank you to NIHR ARC-GM, Made by Mortals, and everyone who was a part of the team, and thank you to the audience, we hope you enjoyed our immersive performance. We’re now taking it on tour and you can find details on how you can see it here: https://arc-gm.nihr.ac.uk/hidden-live