IT is a hard-hitting film about long-lasting mental health issues experienced by the dyslexic community in Scotland.
Featuring Scots with dyslexia, the film shows them 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. It is hoped the awareness week will help move towards a dyslexia friendly Scotland.
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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.
Despite it being a difficult film to be part of Mr Macaldowie said it was import for him to be part of it as dyslexia affects one in 10 Scots.
“One of the reasons I wanted to do this was to be able to give hope to the young people I work with now,” he said. “Education has changed and 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.”
The film could raise awareness of the understanding that is required about dyslexia
Glasgow-based filmmaker Trevor Thomson, himself dyslexic, was motivated to create the film by his own lived experience and trauma. Mr 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.
He 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 the journeys with dyslexia.”
Keith Macaldowie, a high school pupil support assistant 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 realize 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.”
Triple F1 world champion Sir Jackie Stewart has spoken out about his dyslexia journey
Dyslexia Scotland is also celebrating the 10th anniversary of its awareness ribbon. The idea was devised by the charity’s first ever young ambassador, Ellie, who came up with the blue ribbon in 2012 as a way to promote awareness of dyslexia.
Since 2012, Dyslexia Scotland has distributed half a million blue ribbons. The decade-long use of the awareness ribbon is a proven success, as indicated by its high-profile endorsements. Legendary Formula 1 champion Sir Jackie Stewart, who is President of Dyslexia Scotland and dyslexic himself, sports the ribbon annually.
Sir Jackie said: “Every time I see the blue ribbon, it reminds me how important it is for us to find a solution for dyslexia. Like many dyslexics I still struggle and whenever possible, I wear the ribbon.”