Film Screening with Author Christine Lawrence

Emily ~ A Short Film #1

What can bring a strong young woman to the point of breakdown? Emily’s story takes her into the Portsmouth Asylum. It’s 1918 and the world she knows has changed beyond all recognition. Is it now the end of life for her; will she be healed again and does she have a future when the war ends?

’The Portsmouth History Centre sits quietly within the Central Library. When the Stories of Asylum from World War 1 project began in 2020, I was aware of its presence but had never before visited the site in person. This is an amazing place where the project had access to original patient records from the city archives. The staff in the centre were extremely helpful in scanning hospital records as this was a time when the world was still in a state of lockdown. The records we had access to inspired me to write monologues for the performance arts project which was part of the presentation of the research. Having begun to learn more about the people of Portsmouth who were either working or having treatment in the asylum at that time, the novel Emily came into being. At each stage of the journey I have been amazed and heartened at the resource we have in Portsmouth. It’s free to use and the staff are always keen to help whenever they can. Access is easy and quick to organise.’ ~ Christine Lawrence Author


A Series of Short Films

  • The Research

    During 2020-21 a team of researchers pulled together an incredible online exhibition featuring real peoples’ stories of mental health treatment at the Portsmouth Borough Lunatic Asylum, later St James Hospital, now closed. Inspired by 100 year old medical records from the Portsmouth History Centre, and the stories of the people who spent time at the hospital, we have developed a series of short films to create connections with this hidden social history.

  • The Stories

    The first in our series, is the story of Emily. Emily’s husband left to fight in the war, a series of events leads to her admission to the Portsmouth Asylum. Join us for a night of heritage and connect with the rich history of real peoples' lives. Connecting with history through creative inspired stories that will open your heart, your mind and your knowledge to new experiences and understanding.

  • The Why

    Our aims for this work is to reflect and look back on the developments in mental health care since World War 1. We know that looking back helps us to keep looking forward. We have come a long way in tackling stigma, in good quality, respectful treatment and community understanding about mental ill health, but we still have further to go. This project aims to contribute to the social understanding of mental ill health, to connect people with history that is personalised and relatable, and to enhance community cohesion through creative arts.

Explore the history of mental health care in Portsmouth with this new Heritage project.

Uncovering the social history of mental health care in Portsmouth and the surrounding area during the Great War 1914-18, funded by Heritage Lottery and delivered by the Good Mental Health Cooperative.

We started this research project in 2020 with a group of volunteers who all had their own individual connections to the Portsmouth area and a varied interest into the history of local mental health care. The stories uncovered are about patients, hospital staff, the differences between private and pauper treatment and the changing attitudes towards mental health care during WW1. We also researched pivotal moments such as when Portsmouth Mental Hospital was requisitioned by the American Armed Forces and how this impacted patients and the wider community. With this project, the Good Mental Health Cooperative and volunteer research group hoped to explore the stories of mental anguish suffered by so many men and women during the Great War and the wide reaching psychological effects of living through such a challenging time in history.

Explore our Online Research Exhibition!

Discover the history, stories and research archives in our innovative Online Research Exhibition

Uncovering stories from the Borough of Portsmouth Mental Hospital & researching the impact of World War 1 on mental health care 1914-18.

Inspired Art, Creative Storytelling, Stories Come to Life in our Series of Short Films

Mental Wealth Academy

The Good Mental Health Cooperative

The Good Mental Health Cooperative supports people to access community based activities and workshops which help with inclusion, recovery and good mental health. The support is intended for people who have experienced serious life challenges, are socially isolated, anxious or lacking in confidence. This may include experience of mental ill-health, addictions, disability, bereavement, caring responsibilities for example. At the Good Mental Health Cooperative, we believe that connecting with others, and informal learning opportunities, are really important steps to good mental health, bringing a sense of inclusion and challenge, rather than feeling isolated and lacking in purpose.