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Bryony shares her heartbreaking but hopeful story about living with cerebral palsy, PTSD and anxiety – and describes how people don’t always notice or understand these ‘hidden disabilities’. Mixing animation and live action, this beautifully shot and emotional film seeks to raise awareness not just of certain medical conditions; but of the impact of bullying and how it can push a person to feeling suicidal.





Hidden Disabilities

Hello, my name is Bryony. I'm 24. I live with my mum, dad and sister and all our animals. I am an actress, blogger and model. I'm passionate about raising awareness about disability, especially hidden disability. It came about because I was having a hard time and I needed a place to just write and vent. So I started my blog. I was in year two when my family started to take me to the doctors. This was because my teacher could see I was slightly behind my peers, so I would find balance very hard, PE, I couldn't concentrate. My walking wasn't the best. I trip a lot and she just sort of noticed I couldn't really keep up in class. So she spoke to my mum and we went to the doctor and then that's when I started having tests. When I was at school to begin with, I had quite a few friends, but then that kind of changed when people noticed that I was not coming into school as much because I was at a hospital appointment and they weren't really sure why. I think when I started telling my friends that I was disabled, they kind of saw me in a different way and didn't really know how to relate to me anymore. It was like I was a different person, but to me I was just the same. Then that's when people started picking up on things that they hadn't before. I hate to use the word normal, but I think they don't think I was normal.


When I found out I had cerebral palsy I didn't really understand what it was, but my mum and dad were very open about it. For me, it affects my right side of my body and it's scattered all over my brain. So I find reading and writing - I found writing very hard and doing puzzles. I had a splint which was like a leg brace that I'd wear on my right leg. I couldn't wear a skirt at school, had to wear trousers because I'd have to cover it because people would see it and make fun of me. This led to bullying from the age of year 2 to 16 years old. I got bullied verbally, physically and online. I kind of closed off to the world. I didn't feel like I belonged. My disability became more hidden, but I then had the diagnosis of PTSD, anxiety and depression. PTSD is when you've had an event happen in your life and it's affected you, and for some reason, you just can't stop thinking about it, but you're not even thinking about it. You just do it without even knowing. And it can be anything to everyone and it comes out in different ways. I covered it a lot with a smile, but like I say to people, just because you're smiling doesn't mean there's nothing wrong, like a smile can hide a lot and it kind of built up and built up and built up and people couldn't see that. I was just trying to cope with the basic stuff. Even just getting up in the morning. When I'm out and about and I'm not in my wheelchair, people walk past me and treat me completely differently. But it always makes me laugh because you could be walking past someone with a disability and you might not even know. When you see me walking, it might look simple, but inside my head everything's rushing and I get confused and tired and I just kind of learnt to just try and look as normal as I possibly can. I'd get bullied every single day and I'd come home really, really upset and crying.


Around the age of 14, when I was getting diagnosed with my mental health conditions, I was also diagnosed with visual and auditory hallucinations. And I couldn't... I couldn't see the world. It was like I was trapped in darkness. And I still have voices now. My voices would say nasty things that weren't very nice like they still do. But I didn't have coping strategies then. I felt very lost, very alone. I thought people would be better off if I wasn't here. I started to not be able to look at myself in mirrors. I kind of switched myself off to the world and that's when everything kind of just went a bit dark. Everything got a bit confusing in my head and I couldn't... I couldn't escape my own mind. I couldn't tell what was real, what wasn't real. Um... I felt very alone. I tried to take my own life um.... And.... That was really difficult because I was scared people would just say, 'you're doing it for attention' or things like that. But I couldn't think of... a way out. If I could talk to one of the bullies today, I'd... I'd be very anxious, but I'd probably say that even though for you, it was just like a little quick comment or just like a little bit of fun at school because nothing else to do it. It affected the way I saw myself and I didn't think I was worthy of... yeah. I thought that people would be better off without me. So it really like, it became my world rather than the real world for other people. It just became dark and I couldn't get out the darkness.

I spent a bit of time in a mental health hospital. They taught me techniques of how to cope with everyday situations if they got a bit too much. I also got help from CAMHs, which is a child's mental health service, and I'm now with adult mental health and they've been amazing and the support I received with them was brilliant. I have a support worker with me six days a week. I'm very lucky to have her. Her name is Ella. She helped me to try and be as independent as possible and to not rely on my mum all the time. When I'm out and about with Ella, she will link arms with me for when we're crossing the road because of my balance also because of my timing, I'm not really good at judging when it's safe to go. Also because I can have seizures. A seizure is when there's too much electrical energy in your brain and it goes too quickly so you can't have control of yourself. I explain this to little kids, as in you've got little jellybeans in your head, and then sometimes the jellybeans get so excited and they party in your brain and you just have a seizure and you begin to shake. My seizures can be brought on by stress, anxiety, the unknown. Maybe if I'm overthinking or even when I get really excited, they can happen for all different types of reasons.


I have a blue badge and this will help me with car parking so I don't have to walk as far to a shop. I also have a sunflower lanyard, which is a blue or green lanyard with sunflowers on it. This is what I wear when I'm out and about. This lanyard explains to other people that I have additional needs and I might be slower or I might need more help or just to be a bit more patient with me and things like that. Just making people aware that you might just need a little bit of extra help. Like with all my hidden disabilities, I like to find new things to do to help me express myself. And photography is one of them. I really like taking pictures of nature and wildlife and it helped me to be in the moment and just appreciate small little things in the here and now. Another one of my passions is acting. When I have an audition or a job, I will mark up my script in a particular way. This is because of my dyslexia and sometimes it feels like the words on the page can be jumbled. They can sometimes look like they're spinning or blurred, but because of the strategies I use, I always feel a sense of achievement afterwards because I always get there in the end. Despite my conditions and my disabilities, I want to try and be as positive as I can. I believe that my disability is part of me, but it doesn't define me. I made some amazing friends and it was a really nice way to connect and feel that you're not alone because you get told a lot that you're not alone and you think, 'yeah, everyone says that'. But, if you reach out, a lot of people you'll find will feel similar to you or understand what you're going through. So don't be scared to tell people because people would rather you told them and you were here than you didn't tell them and you're not here. I like to say to myself, just be you. Be true. There's no one else like you, and that is your superpower. Your story can change the world. Don't be afraid to be you and don't feel embarrassed to be you. We're all different. And that's what makes the world go round.


Hidden Disabilities

Video length - 10.40
Published date - Oct 2023
Keystage(s) - 3 and 4
Downloadable resources

Made by students on the BFI Film Academy, this documentary covers the perspectives of several young people whose parents have suffered from mental illness. It explores the impact on them in a tender way that helps with understanding mental health conditions and their effect.


Henry 00:00:47:19

Okay. I'm Henry.

Paige 00:00:49:20

Hi, my name is Paige. I'm 16,

Henry 00:00:51:20

I'm 16.

Paige 00:00:53:01

My childhood was good. I had lots of fun, but it was quite rocky

at times, building up to when my mom was hospitalised. Her, she

became very erratic. We didn't really know what was going on,

she wasn't herself.

Henry 00:01:05:10

It was more like a gradual shift in time, but probably when she

first checked into the mental ward, it really clicked you know.

Paige 00:01:13:22

My great grand had just died. It was just very sudden. We didn't

know what was going on.

Henry 00:01:19:06

She was dealing with alcoholism at the time, too, and just

everything just went downhill from there, and she got into the

mental ward and that's all I knew. It was like a blur to me. My

impression of her was really wilted by this experience.

Nadia 00:01:29:15

I was inspired to start the Self Esteem team, having experienced

my own troubles growing up and not having the right information

that I could relate to.

Clip: Limbo.mp4

2 / 5

Henry 00:01:41:09

I don't think I could have done anything. I was pretty powerless

and I wanted to be numb to everything, basically. It was like a

very Kafkaesque situation. I just wanted to avoid it.

Nadia 00:01:51:08

We don't just work with students, we work with parents and

teachers as well for what we call a whole school approach.

Paige 00:02:00:06

I spoke to my pastoral manager about it. I said, I said that my

mum's in hospital and she said okay, and it was never spoken

about again. We felt quite alone.

Henry 00:02:12:00

I guess I didn't really see her as like a really strong person, like

she was more human, more flawed to me. My dad, he was always

quite, uh, frantic and, uh, he didn't really treat the situation well,

I don't think.

Nadia 00:02:25:06

There can often be, uh, what's called role reversal. So the child

becomes the parent and the parent becomes the child, and this

gives huge responsibility to the young person, so they essentially

cut themselves off from friendship circles.

Henry 00:02:40:11

Music helped me through it quite a lot, to be honest. I would just

hide in my bedroom and stuff and like, you know, my parents

were constantly arguing so I'd hear sounds of them arguing


Paige 00:02:50:18

I didn't enjoy being at school. I was constantly worrying and I

started to have lots of days off.

Clip: Limbo.mp4

3 / 5

Henry 00:02:57:06

I, I'd say I wanted to be in school more because, like, I kind of

wanted to run away from my home life and like, I wanted to be

involved in school affairs more, like I just wanted life to go on as

normal, but of course, it didn't just went like topsy turvy really


Paige 00:03:13:15

I think it would have been helpful for me to speak to somebody at

school, because it would have made me want to go into school

more. They just need to pay a bit more attention to the students,

because it's not always the students that are making a ruckus or

being loud. It's sometimes the students who don't say anything at


Nadia 00:03:28:16

So many people suffer in silence or slip under the radar and

aren't recorded.

Henry 00:03:33:14

I just wanted people to think that I was having a normal life, so I

just kept all these feelings bottled inside of me and just

suppressed them. My mom has been home for like two years now,

and she has been dealing with pretty well, and she hasn't had

any significant relapses or anything, so it's good. I don't think I'll

ever fully comprehend what happened, but I think, uh, I think I'm

more aware of, you know, her situation and like the full scope of


Paige 00:04:04:05

I was really relieved when I got the call saying that my mom was

home. She contacted her doctors and said, would they be able to

speak to us? For me, it helped to speak to somebody because I

was able to say things that I didn't realise I was thinking.

Clip: Limbo.mp4

4 / 5

Nadia 00:04:19:17

Mental health conditions are a lot more universal, and there will

be someone out there who can understand, or someone out there

who is going through a similar thing and has perhaps come out

the other side, or has good advice that might be able to help you.

Henry 00:04:34:20

I think it's a good thing I see my mom as more human, although,

you know, the crisis wouldn't be the best way of teaching that to

me, you know.

Paige 00:04:43:23

I think my mom's experience has taught me to take a step back

and think about myself more, not to be so selfless.

Henry 00:04:52:01

If I was giving someone advice who was going through this, I

would say, find someone you can really open up to because I

didn't at the time.

Paige 00:04:59:12

Be patient and realise it's not your fault. It can't be helped.

Nadia 00:05:04:03

It's not always the first person that you reach out to, that's

necessarily the one you're going to connect to or knows how to


Henry 00:05:11:04

I only really found out I needed to open up to someone like years

later, because I have a friend like that now, and like, it's been like

a really good thing in my life.

Nadia 00:05:21:09

So keep going, keep trying. There's no one size that fits all.

Clip: Limbo.mp4

5 / 5

Paige 00:05:27:17

It will take time for things to get better.

Henry 00:05:30:14

Even like the strongest people can like break down sometimes.

Nadia 00:05:33:14

And if it takes a few people, that's fine. That's normal. You're

doing better than you think.


Video length - 6.38
Published date - Oct 2022
Keystage(s) - 3 and 4

Reply With A Full Stop If You Get This – Emily is a poet and a teacher, and has bipolar disorder. It’s a mental health illness that means she can feel very down or very up for no reason whatsoever. With eloquence and humour she describes how it feels, how she manages it, and how she’d like society to be more understanding and accepting of mental health disorders.

A film by Adam Tyler.

Winner of the Educational Film Award (from other organisation or individual) at the Learning On Screen Awards 2019.

Nominated in the Content for Change category at the BAFTA Children’s Awards 2018.

Advice for young people about mental health can be found at the following sites:

Young Minds




Reply With A Full Stop If You Get This

Video length - 10.32
Published date - May 2018
Keystage(s) - 3, 4 and 5
Downloadable resources

Brave – Lots of us face challenges that no-one else can see. Mental health problems can be hard to understand, but just being there for a friend is the first step.


Video length - 4.32
Published date - Nov 2016
Keystage(s) - 3 and 4
Downloadable resources

Stronger – Hannah was bullied so badly that eventually she had to change schools. Here she talks about her experiences, her thoughts on the bullies, and her recovery. And she has advice for anyone who has been bullied: “You’re not a victim, you’re a survivor”.


Video length - 3.42
Published date - Nov 2016
Keystage(s) - 3 and 4
Downloadable resources

The Stress Bag – Stressed out? Everyone gets stressed, but some people cope with it better than others – it’s like having a bag of stress which can only take so much, and we all have different sized bags. This film helps you to recognise the signs of stress and what to do about it.

Courtesy of Biomation.

The Stress Bag

Video length - 02.57
Published date - Feb 2014
Keystage(s) - 3

Feeling Down? – It’s normal to feel down sometimes, but if it goes on for a long time it could be depression or “low mood”. One in eight teenagers suffer from depression, so there’s no need to feel alone. Here are some pointers to help you recognise the signs and some advice on how to get better.

Courtesy of Biomation

Feeling Down?

Video length - 04.44
Published date - Jan 2013
Keystage(s) - 3 and 4

Mental Illnesses: Defined

This film presents official definitions of the most common and well-known mental illnesses, in a way which is clear and concise for young people.

Mental Illnesses: Defined

Video length - 04.49
Published date - Jan 2008
Keystage(s) - 3 and 4