Lecturer studies impact of film on mental health

1st August 2022

A lecturer from Stratford-upon-Avon College is completing a Master’s Degree, with her research focusing on the impact of using film studies to educate students on mental health and wellbeing.

Sarah Downing, Digital Media Production lecturer, presented her research for her thesis (funded by ETF and SUNCETT) at the ETF National Conference held at Sunderland University.

Sarah presented her work so far at the prestigious conference in Sunderland at the University

Her research is focusing on whether watching film can increase empathy for others with consideration of two outcomes: does it increase mental health awareness? And can this be used to support students’ academic development?

So why did Sarah choose to undertake this particular area of study? She comments: “I have been concerned about an increase in students declaring mental health concerns since the start of the pandemic. In particular, students that resit GCSEs alongside their vocational subjects are under more academic pressure which can cause stress and anxiety, so I was interested to explore alternative approaches to support them. As a film teacher, I’m aware of the emotional impact that movies can have for audiences so have chosen to explore how film can be used to develop students’ empathy and reduce stigma about mental health and wellbeing.”

The aim of the study is to establish the value of using film in the classroom and also demonstrate different ways that English teachers can educate their students about mental health and wellbeing within their lessons: “I hope that the students will benefit from the study and be encouraged to seek help with any mental health concerns and also listen to and support each other.”

Sarah is currently in her first year of the Master’s Degree, so her work has so far been researched based. During the next academic year she will begin her study with the English Language team at Stratford-upon-Avon College.

The practical research will include interviews and focus groups with students to establish their experience of retaking GCSE English Language. Sarah will also consult the teachers regarding the development of structured lesson plans which will include selected films/sequences for discussion. Interviews with teachers will explore their experiences of applying film during English lessons and final reflections will be gathered from the students.

Sarah is due to complete the Masters in February 2024 and will have the option to transfer to a PHD if she wishes to continue with her research.

Congratulations on a successful presentation Sarah and we look forward to hearing about your findings!

Find out more about the College’s Digital Media Production courses: Digital Media Production courses