A NEW film shot and set in Scotland is aiming to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health in a bid to point people who need it towards the help which is available.

Made on a budget of £45,000, The Low Road was shot over four weeks by a crew of six people headed up by director Stephen Mulhearn.

It tells the story of student Ellie (Rachel Dick, below) and her best friend Lewis (Adam Bregman), who both suffer with mental health issues.

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When the latter takes his own life, Ellie sets out on a major hike with the end goal of visiting Lewis’s bereaved mother in Skye – a hike he had been planning to undertake himself.

“It’s a tale of hope, but also the stark reality facing a lot of young people right now to do with suicide rates and self-harming,” the film’s producer Sophie Marsh told The National.

According to figures from the National Records of Scotland, there were 762 probable suicides in 2022 – an increase of 9 on the previous year.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Health Survey (2021) revealed that 16% of those aged 16-24 had ever self-harmed, compared with 0% of those aged 75 and over.

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Crucially, Marsh says the film intends to challenge typical media portrayals of mental health on screen, which was achieved by drawing on lived experience.

She explained: “The whole script was based on lived experience and a lot of that came for me, but also interviews that the director and myself did with people, including his teenage daughter.

“I’m in my mid-40s now but when I was a teenager I struggled. I was living away from home and took to self-harming as a way of having control when my emotions were heightened and I didn’t have the tools to deal with them.

“It also leans into experiences of everyday misogyny that I had growing up as a woman.”

The film itself is unlikely to release until 2025, as its makers are keen to make sure it has a run on the festival circuit. More information can be found HERE

Alongside this, they’re also hoping there will be an educational tour upon its release to help make an impact.

“We noticed when we started looking into this subject that there’s a deafening silence around the realities of self-harm,” Marsh says.

The National: The Low Road sees its main character take on a journey for her best friend after he takes his own life. Image: The Low Road/Seeing The Magic Productions

“It’s noticeable in the past with certain films that there’s a rose-tinted look at the whole problem and there’s actually been cases of ‘suicide contagion’ that Samaritans told us about where sometimes when things are depicted on TV or in films, there’s a rise in the increase of the number of people admitted to hospital or those trying to take their own lives.”

Instead, she explains the film aims to tackle the subject in a way that has an impact but is also keen to stress that there is more to the characters than just their struggles.

“We want people to receive help and give a message of hope but realistically which feels really important.

“The protagonist talks about being broken but continuing on and that was really important for us because you can sometimes put the film gloss on something and life isn’t like that.

“We wanted a beautiful film and a great story.”

One thing the film won’t have any issues showcasing is Scotland’s natural beauty with filming taking place across a range of locations.

“Our main character goes on this journey along the West Highland way for her friend so we shot there and also in the Trossachs as well and a bit in Glencoe,” Marsh says.

“The main thing is we really wanted to show that people with mental health struggles are multi-faceted.

“There’s moments of light-heartedness and humour, it’s not purely sort of doom and gloom.

“It’s showing people how they really are and I think we’ve achieved that from our personal experience with the matter.”