WORLD Mental Health Day on Saturday (10 October) marked the official start of the 2015 Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival, with audience numbers of more than 20,000 expected to watch 300 events across the country this month.

'Passion' is theme of this year's Festival, which runs until 31 October, and throughout Scotland there will be a series of workshops, literature, music, visual art, film, comedy and dance performances to promote mental health awareness and support the arts. You can view the website and 2015 programme here

Wellbeing and diversity took centre stage to mark the beginning of the 2015 programme on Saturday, and the Festival took over Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow for a day to open one of the largest social justice festivals in the world. There were also opening day events in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Kirkintilloch, Paisley, Perth and Skye, while various other towns and cities will stage events over the next three weeks.

By engaging artists, connecting with communities and forming collaborations, the Festival celebrates the artistic achievements of people with experience of mental health issues, exploring the relationship between creativity and the mind, and promotes positive mental health and well-being.

SMHAFF manager Gail Aldam explained: "The Festival started back in 2007 and is now in its ninth year. It was started with the idea of taking a new approach to to combating mental health stigma using the arts. It is the ideal platform for us to challenge and tackle negative perceptions in a creative way. The themes we choose are a great hook for engaging with people, and Passion was the choice this year.

"What has always struck me is the passion of the people involved and their determination to instigate change in the way mental health is perceived. It was fitting to use Passion this year as the central theme.

"We consider passion in all its forms – intensity, love, rebellion, excitement, hope and fear – and in particular, we celebrate our passion for the arts and the passion that artists have for the creative process."

The Festival has grown in popularity year on year and has become a firm fixture in the Scottish arts calendar. When it was first founded, the initital proposal was a low-key weekend of film in Glasgow, but quickly expanded - across all art spectrums - all over Scotland.

Gail praised the army of volunteers, performers, artists and supporters who have helped make the SMHAFF success it is and said the response to the 2015 programme so far had been highly positive and encouraging.

Support in Mind Scotland supports people suffering from serious mental ill health, including schizophrenia, psychosis and bipolar disorrder and while there are so many highlights within a packed programme to choose from, Gail suggested that it would be well worth seeing a ground-breaking play called 'Cracked' at Platform to Health's Headspace in Glasgow. "It's a thought-provoking play explaining people's first episodes of psychosis and is quite unique in that it was devised by young people," she said. 

For further information about the SMHAFF call 0141 572 0413 or email [email protected]