Documentary premiere and panel discussion to explore mental health and gaps in the benefits system

The Royal College of Psychiatrists, healthcare professionals, York Mind, and Rachael Maskell MP join filmmaker and bereaved families for York St John University event

York St John University is proud to announce the first public screening of the acclaimed documentary Pip, Pop and a Pandemic.

Recently shown in Parliament and submitted as evidence to the Covid-19 inquiry, this moving and intimate documentary gives a voice to vulnerable people and raises challenging questions about the benefits system. It is supported by major mental health charities.

The film was made by Tracy Willits, Senior Lecturer in Media Production at York St John University. Tracy has a background in health documentaries for television and in this latest work, she delivers a unique portrait of people with schizophrenia and their loved ones as they navigate immensely challenging situations.

The film follows two couples through lockdown and shows how their lives in North East England were turned upside down by a mental health crisis and global pandemic:

Pauline and George who both have schizophrenia. They are seen navigating new love in later life alongside a battle for mental health support during lockdown.

  • Ed who was a successful 80s musician and used to a glamorous touring lifestyle. He features in the film anonymously as he gives his own unfiltered account of now living in poverty while he cares for his wife.
  • Set against the beautiful backdrop of the Northumberland coast the film is raw and emotional and ultimately tragic, but with two love stories at its heart is told with both humour and warmth.

About the event 

The event takes place at 6pm on Friday 23 February 2024 in the Creative Centre at York St John University. It is sponsored by the Institute for Health and Care Improvement.

The film screening will be 45 minutes followed by a panel discussion led by York Central MP Rachael Maskell with a call to action proposing changes in how society supports people like Pauline and Ed. The evening will concluce with networking and drinks.

Booking is via Eventbrite https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/pip-pop-documentary-premiere-and-panel-discussion-tickets-802810105637?aff=ebdsoporgprofile

Quotes from panel members 

Dr Dan Cottingham, Primary Care CRUK GP for the Humber and North Yorkshire Cancer Alliance and GP in York said:

“This inspiring documentary observes the inequalities seen for people with severe mental illness when going about their daily lives on the background of the pandemic.

“The changes with PIP and the stress this adds to the patients and their carers is obvious, but the additional pressures from the pandemic including anti-social behaviour and isolation are marked. Essential viewing for all those involved with severe mental health care be it social, health or system planning.

“As a society we need to do better!”

Dr Jed Boardman, from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:

“Pip, Pop and a Pandemic is a powerful portrayal of the reality that many people living with severe mental illness face every day. The documentary highlights the heartbreaking effects of a benefits system that promotes penalties and sanctions.

“This system clearly discriminates against people with mental illness, something that cannot be tolerated. The Government must fully revise its current approach and act to create a system that is fair for all.

“Our benefits system must be a supporter and enabler if we are to improve people’s quality of life.”

Tracy Willits, filmmaker and Senior Lecturer at York St John University said:

“Making this documentary has been a real eye-opener for me as well as for an audience. I knew our mental health care system was suffering from a lack of funding but through Ed and Pauline’s personal stories, I now realise we are in crisis.

“I want to see a commitment to reducing the large gap in life expectancy for people with a serious mental illness who tend to die 15 to 20 years younger than the general population – a statistic which tragically comes true in this documentary. Pauline passed away during filming after a late-stage cancer diagnosis and just four months after finally being awarded PIP. Her fiancé George soon follows dying of a heart attack a few months later.”

“I am also calling for a change to the punitive culture within the benefits system and a more compassionate approach towards people with disabilities and their carers. I want people to listen carefully to what Pauline and Ed have to say on behalf of the millions of people with mental illness in this country and their carers, and to change the current system to one that truly supports the vulnerable living on the fringe of society.”

Rachael Maskell , MP for York Central said:

“I am really grateful to Tracy for producing such a powerful film, giving an important and rare insight into the impact of schizophrenia on individuals and their loved ones and carers.

“Sadly, the truth is that as a society we continue to fall way short when it comes to caring for those with the condition, with many being vulnerable and marginalised, and access to mental health support woefully inadequate.

“The shocking reality is that people with severe psychiatric conditions die up to 20 years sooner than the general population. The stark inequalities in access to health and well-being, benefit services and housing to name but a few, is a crisis that needs to be brought to the fore.”