Edinburgh Napier TV student supporting lives through mental health movement
Streamer. Documentary maker. Clothes designer. Freelance videographer and photographer. Mental health advocate.
22 April 2021
Award-winning Edinburgh Napier TV student Michael Gately wears a lot of hats – and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
The 24-year-old Irishman is in his fourth and final year of study at the University and – after enduring a difficult pandemic – has credited his creative output as a key factor in saving his life.
Michael has experienced mental health challenges in the past and that has been heightened this year as a result of the pandemic.
He hasn’t seen his family for more than a year and has struggled with addiction and depression over the past 10 months.
But he’s found solace in his creative output. Through his online gaming and his use of streaming sites such as Twitch, he regularly speaks about his experiences with ill mental health to his online community of more than a thousand followers.
And in response, they’ve turned to him for support and guidance as they navigate their own way through the global pandemic.
Michael’s also recently launched Beyond The Mind (BTM), a brand new clothing line in partnership with Download Clothing.
He sees BTM as more of a movement than simply a clothing range, with items featuring various designs that encourage people to understand that they can achieve anything that they set their mind to. Profits from the range is split with a range of mental health charities and causes.
Since the launch of the clothing range, and since opening up about his mental health in his online streaming, Michael has been inundated with messages from his followers on the help, support and benefits they’ve felt from having an open conversation on the topic.
It is something that Michael credits in helping himself get to a better place and has given him a renewed purpose in life as the pandemic progresses.
He said: “This time last year, I was in a very different place. I haven’t seen my family in more than a year as a result of the pandemic. My brother is a paramedic in England so I worry about him a lot. Freelance filming and photography opportunities have dried up too and my mental health was really affected as a result. I’m an open book and have always spoken freely about my struggles. Everyone has good and bad days but during the pandemic, I was having more bad days than good. I really had to take a step back and focus on myself.
“It sounds dark, but the BTM brand was really set up with the intention of me saying goodbye. I was in such a bad place that I just wanted to go and the clothing would be my legacy. But since its launch, it’s become bigger than me. I’ve had so many comments and messages from people who have bought pieces or joined the live stream about how talking so openly about mental health has helped them.
“I still have my bad days but BTM has given me a new purpose. I’ve got it tattooed on my arm now as a constant reminder. My creative output – and the BTM community in general – have saved my life.”
Mental health is also a key theme throughout Michael’s final year project as part of his BA (Hons) Television degree at Edinburgh Napier.
Michael’s final year project - a documentary called Alter Reality – focuses on the online gaming and streaming world and the pressures and difficulties that arise in both.
The film features interviews with high-profile streamers and raises important points around the mental health of online gaming and streaming, as well as looking at topics such as burnout, pressure, racism and sexism in the online world.
Michael’s project recently received the Clements Family Prize. The award is given to a BA (Hons) TV student whose final year project shows the most promise. The award is named after the TV producer and honorary graduate of Edinburgh Napier, Alan Clements who himself is involved in the awarding of the prize.
Michael added: “It was always my intention to do my final year film on this topic, but the pandemic really helped focus my mind on this area. Filmmaking with Covid-19 restrictions and guidelines is not impossible, but it is really difficult. However, I have been able to do nearly everything I wanted to do online and I’ve made something that I’m proud of.
“The documentary focuses on a number of facets of the online gaming/streaming world. From the pressures of streaming daily and being a constant support to your followers, to topics such as racism and sexism that are rife throughout the online world. How do people use online to connect with others? Do people forget what reality is really like if they live their life online?
“The Clements Family Prize was a big shock but I was delighted to win it. We had to cut a trailer of the documentary as part of the submission and I wanted to give people goosebumps. I tested it with a few of my fellow streamers and they gave me the confidence to go with what I had created. It was a great boost to receive the award.
“At the moment, I’m in a good place. If anything, over the last year I’ve realised that if you’re not winning at life, you are still learning. Bad experiences educate you and it’s OK to not be OK. They are my mottos anyway.”
Kirsten MacLeod, programme leader for the BA (Hons) Television course at Edinburgh Napier, said: "It is wonderful to see how Michael has channelled his creativity into helping himself and others get through the pandemic. I know how difficult it has been for Michael and other students over this past year. We do ask students to reach out and come to us for help - Edinburgh Napier University has a great student support team who have been involved in supporting Michael and we are very proud of him for all he has achieved."