My first reaction to BBC3’s ‘It’s a Mad World’ season was to ignore it.
Then I thought that maybe ignoring it wasn’t the way to go- I’ve ignored a lot of things in my life and it rarely makes them better, so I moved to coping mechanism number two; blog about it.
This is my reaction and thoughts to the first episode of ‘Don’t Call Me Crazy’ a documentary following teens in the McGuinness Unit in Manchester- the programme shows a wide variety of mental health issues in both boys and girls aged 13-17 and how the patients, staff and families cope with them.
Wren’s Run-down of Episode One:
Firstly I have to say that I tip my hat to those who went on camera- namely Beth, Gill and Emma in this first episode, it’s something that I think it incredibly brave and I honestly have so much respect for them as I don’t think I could do that myself.
Secondly- I was so, so glad about the feel of the programme; it felt honest and raw but completely without sensationalising mental illness which was incredibly refreshing!
The programme didn’t overtly deal with stereotypes surrounding mental illness- it sort of snuck them in as it went along through interviews with staff and patients. It dealt with problems such as ‘the mentally ill are violent’ and ‘it’s all just attention seeking’ seemingly easily- although I don’t know if the reassuring words of the interviewees would have been viewed in the same way by non-mentalists as they were by me, so your mileage may vary on that one.
It was really nice to see a ‘happy’ patient (Beth), something that it pretty much never shown in films or documentaries- generally it’s people curled up in corridors (though there were a lot of those too) as on a personal level I’m much more likely to be found cracking jokes at my own expense when I’m in the middle of a serious crisis than screaming and crying… and it’s sometimes hard to explain to people that just because I appear to be happy doesn’t mean I’m not really struggling.
Another thing that I loved on a personal level was the clip of Emma talking about her beliefs of what would happen to her Mother (an irrational/delusional thought), I find it really hard to explain my issues with delusions to people- they just don’t seem to get that I have beliefs that are irrational and strange but seem perfectly normal to me, they keep asking why I can’t just ignore those thoughts… but anyone watching that clip would have completely believed what she was saying, only realising that maybe it wasn’t a rational thing a while later.
Of course, any good documentary on mental health has to show a little bit of violence- and this was no exception. I did, however, like the way it was handled. You saw what lead up to the individual losing their temper and lashing out and then what measures were used to subdue them. It was pretty simple and calm, no dramatic camera angles or music- just the event. I think this really helped to break down the ‘violent’ stereotype- but one thing I’d be really interested in is how this was viewed by the mentally healthy out there; did you find it shocking? Upsetting? I’ve seen that kind of thing before and so it had limited impact for me but I’d love to know what such a calm, candid view of that kind of thing made other people feel.
A couple of personal thoughts on the whole thing:
- Trigger warnings? Okay, so it’s a documentary about mental health- but you really have to think that a large proportion of the people watching this are dealing with mental health problems themselves, and they do show fresh self harm injuries and blood, which I found to be quite… well, exciting… (in a bad way.)
- Control issues- oh god, as someone who has serious issues with control the entire methodology of the unit (and of the mental health system in the UK) literally makes my skin crawl, my mental health issues all stem from a need to regain control and just watching this was incredibly unpleasant for me.
Another debate that was touched upon was the strange middle ground that psych units occupy between being prisons and hospitals… the people there who are sectioned have to be kept there, with the police being called to hunt them down when they escape- now, I’m not saying that there’s a better way to do this or that this isn’t necessary, but it must be strange for people who have no experience of mental illness to see.
Finally, I want to leave with something that was mentioned in the programme and that I’ve been talking about for quite a while: it isn’t about getting better, you won’t get better- but you will learn how to cope.
Thanks for reading, this is just what I thought but feel free to share your opinions- I’d love to hear them, especially from people who have no experience of mental illness.
If you want to watch this programme (think you might have to be a Brit to do this) you can find it here.
’til next time,