Sharing the reality of healthcare workers fighting COVID-19, through the lens of filmmakers in isolation because of it

Short video series

Clients: Royal Melbourne Hospital, Black Dog Institute, Australian Government

Impact: Breaking through the Stigma

Born in collaboration between a healthcare worker and Learning Environments, RMHive is an app designed to support those on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a stigma around discussing mental wellbeing in frontline healthcare work and a lack of time and space for these professionals to share stories with each other. That’s where RESPOND comes in.

Featured on the Project and launched at a screening in 2021 Melbourne Knowledge Week, the eight short films that make up RESPOND offer a valuable insight into the experiences of frontline healthcare workers. The launch event attracted significant media attention, was attended by over 200 people and saw RMHive take out the 2021 Melbourne Award for Knowledge and Innovation.

“Very powerful, especially with the public misconception of what’s going on for us, this is a really necessary perspective to the struggles that are occurring. It makes me think, gosh, we’ve – I’ve – come so far. We’ve been through so much.

– Abbey Fistrovich (Healthcare Worker)

Woman's head standing behind a fogged up showerscreen Healthcare worker standing in the sun on a hill with their hands on their hips and their back to the camera, looking out.

Process: Connecting Communities in Isolation

Listening was our top priority when developing RESPOND. Not only were the everyday experiences of healthcare workers outside of our knowledge as filmmakers, we were also seeking to honour the stories of these essential workers during a one-in-a-hundred-year pandemic.

We partnered with a research team from the University who recorded interviews using photo elicitation. This style of interview cut through the stigma surrounding mental health, by asking interviewees to reflect upon their own experiences using a variety of visual stimulus. These recordings allowed us to understand both their unique stories, and the common threads that tied them together.

The eight recorded interviews were then anonymously dispersed amongst eight storytellers selected from Australia’s diverse film-making community. These creatives each made a short film, capturing the high levels of anxiety, creeping depression and isolation experienced by healthcare workers as well as their resilience, coping mechanisms and moments of respite. Each film resulting from this process is very different, but equally affecting – covering drama, documentary, animation, and comedy.

Shared with the community through the RMHive app and Melbourne Knowledge week, these videos are helping to support the mental wellbeing of healthcare workers, grow community understanding and combat feelings of isolation during difficult times.

“To think that someone could take my thoughts and make it into a film that other people could connect with makes it more of a communal experience, rather than just my own”

– Anonymous Healthcare Worker

This project is both a valuable community-building resource for the present and a unique time capsule for the future.

Close up of a healthcare worker's face with a disposable face mask on. Woman sits outside on a porch writing.