Adolescence is a time for growth, development, increasing independence and also a time for forming new relationships. Chronic conditions such as mental health issues, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity and epilepsy have a reciprocal relationship with these social and developmental processes and can have a serious impact on life both at home and at school.
Chronic diseases and disorders affect young people everyone but there are huge variations in the prevalence of them between countries and these differential risks are rarely explored. Data summarising the chronic health of adolescents worldwide is most often presented in large data sets, dull reports or duller academic journals and rarely disseminated in any other way, remaining largely hidden from the public view.
In an effort to raise the profile of these issues facing adolescents and to communicate the accompaying health data in a more lively and accessible format, an innovative, multidisciplinary collaboration was initiated led by Amanda Mason-Jones, Senior Lecturer in Global Public Health and involving researchers at the University's Departments of Health Sciences (Amanda Mason-Jones, Antonina Mikocka-Walus); Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media (TFTI) (Sandra Pauletto, Patrick Titley); Music (Jez Wells); Sociology (Darren Reed); English (Alice Hall); the Centre for Applied Human Rights (CAHR) (Juliana Mensah). Together with composer Bartek Walus, film director Nik Morris and actress Katie-Marie Armstrong, they created a multimedia installation in the University's 3Sixty space, a black box with 360 degree projection and sound.
A narrative entitled 'Jane's Story' was constructed from the primary accounts of young people and was presented through a speaker and a specially commissioned piece of music. Visual animations were created to vividly portray the challenges facing young people and also their strength and resilience to overcome them. The narrative was interspersed with sonified data on the global chronic health of adolescents.
The installation was first shown at the inaugural Centre for Chronic Diseases and Disorders Conference at York and was open to the public for a further week and a half. People were both incredibly moved and surprised at the impact the film had on them. Later the film formed the starting point for a workshop for students at the York College was held where the young people took part in a number of activities exploring the issues of chronic health. These activities highlighted that the need to talk more about the issues that arise for young people and challenge the taboos surrounding chronic illness as a young person. The young people also felt that there was a need to get more information out through the media and many of them were willing to talk about their own experiences through radio interviews. They suggested that a film should be made that on the topic and potentially some street theatre productions or showing the film at festivals to raise the profile.