A SPECIAL focus on young people’s mental health is to form an important strand of the 12th Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival (SMHAF).

This year’s event also boasts its biggest ever theatre programme, including a Glasgow run for Mental, the winner of the first ever Mental Health Fringe Award.

Another highlight will be the launch of I AM, a new book of stories from transgender and non-binary people across the world, created in partnership with National Theatre of Scotland's Adam World Choir, an international digital community of transgender and non-binary people.

To mark Scotland’s Year of Young People – and in light of recent research suggesting that half of adult mental health problems begin in childhood – this year’s festival has the theme of Beginnings with a special focus on young people’s mental health.

As part of this, a brand new Youth Panel has been created to inform a series of youth-focused events and create a record of the festival through the eyes of a younger audience.

The festival is also working with Vox Liminis on KIN: Branching Out, a series of workshops with young people who have personal experience of the imprisonment of a parent or sibling. In partnership with Families Outside, this brings together a close-knit group of 14-26 year olds from across Scotland, committed to making art inspired by their lives and to opening up a conversation about family imprisonment in Scotland. It will culminate in a two-day mini festival within SMHAF.

INTO Film will work with existing youth film clubs across Scotland to engage in two one-day events in North and Central Scotland to watch, discuss and explore themes of mental health and “beginnings”. This will be followed with practical activities to encourage the creation of youth made content that will be collated by a professional filmmaker to create one or two films that represent the themes.

The final productions will be shared at showcase events within the respective schools as well as featuring in the SMHAF programme of screening events across the country.

Meanwhile SMHAF associate artist Emma Jayne Park will work with dancer James Fogerty in Hillhead Library for the entire month, collaborating with three Primary 5 groups from Notre Dame Primary School to create site specific dance performances inspired by books for children and young people.

“This year’s festival is a new beginning for SMHAF, with the programme moving from October to May,” said festival manager Gail Aldam. “It is also Scotland’s Year of Young People, so it felt like a perfect opportunity to explore the theme of Beginnings.”

THIS year’s theatre programme includes a four-night Glasgow run of Mental, a powerful show about what it’s like to grow up with a mother who is bipolar. There is also the premiere of Though This Be Madness, a show about new parenthood and mental illness by award-winning theatre-maker Skye Loneragan, with additional, semi-improvised daytime performances for parents with babes-in-arms.

The theatre programme includes tours of four acclaimed shows themed around mental health including Amy Conway’s Super Awesome World, in which writer-performer Amy Conway draws on her childhood love of computer games to explore her relationship with depression; Turntable, a show by MJ McCarthy about the impact of formative musical experiences that first toured Scotland as part of SMHAF 2015; and Fisk, a rich tapestry of puppetry, movement and design by award-winning company Tortoise in a Nutshell, in a story about a man and a fish, and the unexpected impact they have on each other.

IN addition, the festival’s International Film Competition winners will be showcased over four days from May 10-13 at Glasgow’s CCA. The competition celebrates high achievement in filmmaking that addresses mental health and in keeping with the festival theme, stories about young people’s formative experiences will feature strongly.

They include But Honey, You Look Fine, in which a teenage film-maker documents her best friend’s battle with bulimia; Being Keegan, a powerful drama about a man revisiting the scene of a childhood tragedy; Horizon, in which a teenage girl struggles with anger and the loss of her mother; and Rocknrollers, a heartwarming documentary about three teenage soul-mates and band-mates trying to support their singer through his depression. Other notable winners include Crazy, a compelling portrait of a schizophrenic man’s efforts to have a say in his treatment, and Maybe It’s Me, a beautiful piece of animation about a son’s relationship with his father.

SOME of the other highlights of the festival are Flint & Pitch – an afternoon workshop for young performers led by internationally acclaimed poet Deanna Rodger, before an evening appearance at a special Beginnings-themed edition of the popular spoken word night in Edinburgh’s Saltire Society and Bongo Club on May 26.

In 5 Ways to Begin in Glasgow on May 19 and Edinburgh on May 20, SMHAF associate artist Emma Jayne Park curates two scratch nights featuring five works in progress by artists exploring mental health.

The Box is contemporary dance theatre by Julia James-Griffiths exploring the impact of depression in Edinburgh on May 24 while in Glasgow on May 24, Vox Liminis presents CON (SCRIPTED), an interactive performance on May 24 in Glasgow exploring the impact on young people of family members being imprisoned.

The following night in Glasgow Vox Liminis presents Distant Voices: Not Known at This Address where Distant Voices project artistic director Louis Abbott (Admiral Fallow) is joined by some of Scotland’s most celebrated songwriters to launch Not Known at this Address, an album produced alongside people who have first-hand experience of the criminal justice system.

In Paisley from May 8-24 there is a chance to see the Caring Conversations exhibition which features work by people throughout Paisley, exploring mental health stigma in health and social care RMHAF Hub, Paisley, 8-24 May Events during the festival are on throughout Scotland. The SMHAF 2018 programme is online at www.mhfestival.com