News 25 September

XenZone Backs Short Film Exploring Male Mental Health

Oliver Williams is an Integration and Participation Worker at XenZone, ensuring our Kooth service is known and embedded in the local communities and works closely with local services where it is commissioned. Oliver is also a professional therapist. He has a background in education and care and has supported many people with severe and enduring complex mental health needs.

Oliver recently wrote a script called ‘The Dark Heart Therapy’. With the support of XenZone, this will soon be turned into a short film.

Here, he talks about the messages he wants to convey through the film, about male mental health and about the toxicity of male superheroes.

What is The Dark Heart Therapy?
The Dark Heart Therapy is a script, which is being made into a professional short film. It’s about a man who believes he is a superhero. I wrote it to make it easier for male adolescents to accept therapy, as well as emotional support more generally.

The fiction dovetails between reality and fantasy and offers a therapeutic experience that will leave audiences sure vulnerability is simply human; that asking for help never makes you less of a man… it makes you more of yourself.

What is the film about?
A patient, who calls himself The Dark Heart, is detained in an asylum for dangerous psychotics. He is met by an empathetic counsellor, whose compassion provokes a violent attack. Despite a very real threat to his life, the counsellor stays with his new would-be vigilante client through an outpouring of rage, terror and despair.

The facade of invulnerability falls away, and a young man with a universal ‘condition’ emerges.

What inspired you to write the script?
While the male suicide rate is thankfully decreasing, it is still the biggest killer of men under forty-five. Every year in the UK over 4000 men take their own lives. Frankly put, men don’t ask for help because ‘boys don’t cry.’

And as a character then, The Dark Heart represents every man who has sacrificed his emotional awareness to the silencing of his pain. Every boy who learned to ‘man up.’
In a society, where our gender stereotyping is so normalised, we readily accept it on cinema screens, in supermarket aisles and in our children’s beds where they sleep and dream. We need a therapy that is equally cultural, communal and commonplace.

When is it being filmed?
The Dark Heart Therapy will be shot in October, and I am absolutely thrilled that it is part funded and associated with XenZone. For me, as a counsellor, this is winning a BAFTA before the movie even exists.

Plus, there is every chance that our star – a big name as yet under wraps – could very well take us to such cinematic success.

From my heart, I want to say thank you to all who supported this film. Thank you to XenZone for being heroic and to all in advance for supporting The Dark Heart Therapy.