Sadie Kaye is an RTHK presenter, writer, filmmaker and actress. She produces and presents comedy and documentaries for RTHK Radio 3. She’s also refreshingly candid about her life with bipolar disorder. In 2015 she produced and presented a documentary, Bipolar Express, about her condition for RTHK Radio 3, which won an award from the Association for International Broadcasting. She’s since set up two non-profit groups to help others with mental illness, Bipolar Hong Kong and Mental Ideas. Buzz caught up with Kaye of the Kung to get the buzz on Mental Ideas.
BUZZ: What is Mental Ideas?
SK: Mental Ideas is a non-profit film and media platform that explodes mental health and encourages all forms of artistic self-expression, innovation and social enterprise. The platform spotlights artists, writers, filmmakers and social entrepreneurs from around the world, highlighting how they are using the arts, film and media to engage and explain mental health in daring and ingenious ways. It creates opportunities for one of the most complex social groups to share ideas and unite as a global creative community.
BUZZ: How is Mental Ideas different to your first mental health initiative Bipolar Hong Kong?
SK: Bipolar Hong Kong is HK’s first and only peer-led support group for people with bipolar disorder, their friends and families. It’s been running for 4 years and offers free, monthly support group meetings in Central and Sai Kung, 121 peer mentoring, the occasional op-ed, articles, artwork and humor. Mental Ideas is much more inclusive and international in focus. It creates arts, film and media opportunities for people affected by all forms of mental illness, directly and indirectly, to showcase their work via projects, festivals and events. It’s a platform for experimentation and seeks to redefine mental illness by challenging people’s perceptions about it in daring, unusual and entertaining ways.
BUZZ: Can you talk me through some of the projects and events Mental Ideas offers?
SK: Sure. We’re hosting an annual film festival in Hong Kong that showcases international films with a broad focus on mental health issues (e.g. it portrays a character who is experiencing mental health issues), an annual awards event that rewards and recognizes inspirational artists, writers, filmmakers and social entrepreneurs who have made an outstanding contribution to explaining mental health in daring and original ways. We’re running a live event on 1 March 2019 in partnership with International Day of Unplugging, a 24-hour respite from technology. This takes the form of a festival in Hong Kong Park with acoustic music, spoken word poetry, and games to encourage the art of conversation with real people in real time (not just on social media). It’s free to attend, but you must register. We’re also partnering RTHK on the production of a weekly podcast, the Mental Ideas Podcast, which explores innovative, cross-cultural approaches to tackling mental health via a series of social experiments. I then discuss the results of each experiment with a panel of guests from the worlds of politics, film, entertainment, the arts and charity.
BUZZ: So you’re presenting it?
SK: I’m producing and presenting the studio bits with the panel of guests, but comedian Mat Ricardo will also be presenting a regular slot. Then we invite guest presenters to perform their own social experiments and submit 1-3 minute slots from anywhere in the world via Mental Ideas.
BUZZ: Any advice for aspiring presenters?
SK: Don’t stand next to a beeping fridge, a pneumatic drill or in your bathroom to record your slots. Too echoey. Turn off fans and ACs if possible. In terms of content, anything goes, as long as it’s got a relevant [mental health] angle and is not about trolling/ abusing others. We would never broadcast that sh*t. The tone of the slots should reflect the tone of Mental Ideas: irreverent, witty, noisy, unashamedly provocative and unapologetic.
BUZZ: Where can I download the podcast?
SK: The podcast will be broadcast weekly in 10-minute episodes on RTHK Radio 3, with longer versions and filmed, interactive ‘extras’ available on the Mental Ideas platform. We’ll also be broadcasting the podcast via Spotify and iTunes, so anyone can download them.
BUZZ: How far are you along with it?
SK: We’re in production and have mapped out the first 10 episodes, but the podcast won’t be ready to launch until December 2018 or early 2019.
BUZZ: What else are you working on at the moment for RTHK?
SK: I’m just finishing off editing a documentary I produced & presented for RTHK about OCD, called As Bad As It Gets. I have two more docs in production, one about the Hong Kong Polo Team and another about charity Sailability. I’m also working on a comedy podcast, Fake News, writing & performing in sketches with actor Philippe Joly, and writing my first sitcom, Meet The New Parents.
BUZZ: Who else is involved?
SK: Besides me, my sister Amy, brother-in-law Rasheed and Philippe Joly, Mental Ideas as some fantastic talent on board as ambassadors, including showman Mat Ricardo, the UK’s No 1 variety act, Downton Abbey and Bad Girls actress Simone Lahbib, artist Charlotte Farhan, BIFA nominated filmmaker Raffaello DeGruttola, film producer James Daly and composer Nick Samuel.
BUZZ: Why do you think so many people with bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions are so creative?
SK: I think we’re all born creative, whether we choose to recognize it, embrace it, cultivate it or repress it. I don’t think people with mental illness are necessarily any more talented than those without it, but there is definitely something about the practice of art that soothes overactive minds and allows us to work through our issues without being fully conscious of it. It’s amazing how many of life’s problems can be solved simply by not paying any attention to them, so if you’re utterly absorbed in the practice of art, it helps bring a healthy respite from the insanity of over-dwelling. If the creative process wasn’t beneficial as a form of self-therapy, I guess we wouldn’t do it. So perhaps we just practice more?
BUZZ: Do you need to be a successful artist to join Mental Ideas?
SK: Nah! In fact, you can read the entire Mental Ideas platform and replace the word ‘artist’ with ‘sufferer’ in your head, which is essentially what I did, but in reverse, and it will still make sense. As labels go, ‘sufferer’ has always struck me as particularly self-limiting, self-sabotaging, with the looming disaster feel of a self-fulfilling prophecy that’s about to rip through your life and set you back to square one. Suffering is how most mental illnesses start. Triggered by traumatic life events. But if we focus too much on ‘suffering’ and ‘struggling’ and unintentionally program these negative words into our psyche, there’s a danger it will also be where we end up. I think we need to be extra vigilant about the labels we apply to ourselves, even if it is just to describe a condition. If you have a personality disorder, it’s almost impossible to separate your personality from the disorder. While substituting ‘sufferer’ and replacing it with ‘superhuman’ would be reckless, delusional madness on a Brexit scale, ‘artist’ is neutral and much more productive. Anybody can be an artist. It’s just a state of mind.