By Henriette L. Olsen and Hanne Eide Andersen
“The library is describing the world, really. What we have most of is stories of grief, which is something we all have to go through at some point in our lives,” Jimmy Westerheim says.
Seven out of ten people in Norway with mental health problems are not seeking help, according to the Norwegian institute of public health, Folkehelseinstituttet. The same is true on a global level, according to the World Health Organisation. Jimmy’s overall aim is to change that.
“The most dangerous thought for someone with mental health problems is the notion of being alone and losing hope of that ever changing. It is often in this space that suicidal thoughts and actions happen. Youth, in those fragile teenage years, is particularly vulnerable,” he says.
500 in-depth interviews from 160 countries
Today, The Human Aspect video library consists of 500 one-hour long, in-depth interviews with people from all over the world. There are people of all ages and backgrounds. Their common ground is that they are telling the stories of the biggest challenge they have experienced in their lives, and how they came out on the other side. They share insights, information and practical advice for others in similar situations.
The online library allows you to search, for example, for subjects such as anxiety, grief, depression, bullying, sexuality, cancer, eating disorders, burnout, having to flee your home and several mental disorders. All of which are human experiences common to a lot of people.
A series called ‘Generation Z’, which tackles youth and mental health, is produced with support from Kavli Trust.
The videos have been seen by thousands of people in every country of the world, apart from Cuba and North Korea, where access to the internet is limited.
Breaking out of violent relationships
The most viewed film is the interview with Kine Pedersen. Kine is an active member of the organisation Vi tror deg (‘We Believe You’), working to protect survivors of sexual violence, and in this film she tells the story of living in a violent relationship for a long time and how she eventually broke out of it. She gives advice and shares her insights from the difficult process of reporting the abuse to the police witnessing against the perpetrator in court.
“After the video was published at The Human Aspect, several victims of violence contacted us and said that they have broken out of abusive relationships and reported the perpetrator to the police” Jimmy says.
Jimmy’s own experiences has formed the basis of the The Human Aspect Foundation and the world’s first life experience library. The story of The Human Aspect is also the story of Jimmy’s life.
Wanted to take his life at 13
Jimmy’s story of survival starts at 13. He wants to end his life, but coincidence makes him survive. Several times Jimmy experiences loss and grief, bullying, loneliness and exclusion. A turning point in his life is when he crushes a disk in his back, and nerves in his right leg are destroyed. Jimmy has always been an active sportsman, and the injuries now take away an important part of his identity.
A harrowing event on mission for Medicine Sans Frontiers in Afghanistan, where several people are killed, helps Jimmy reflect on how individuals process suffering: “Why is it that every time we experience hardship we don’t seem to talk about it, even if we have all been through the same thing?” he says.
More people seek help
These thoughts developed and laid the foundations of what is now The Human Aspect, the homepage for the world’s first life experience library, launched in 2016.
The stories of people who have reached out and asked for help after watching one of the videos are constantly increasing.
“People are motivated by the knowledge that they are not alone. Many seek help from a psychologist and take their first steps out of their own challenges. This is also the goal: We want to close the gap between ordinary people and professional services,” Jimmy Westerheim says.
Top photo: Jimmy Westerheim. Photo: Mathias Hagen