… Better late than never!
This little review/response/reaction comes a little late due to the fact that I didn’t actually see the episode when it was first broadcast last night, I was busy becoming a Pagan cliché.
The first thing that jumped out to me about this episode was the portrayal of hallucinations (note that I’m not using the term ‘psychosis’ as the patient in question was not diagnosed as psychotic) it wasn’t the way they were portrayed that got me, it was just the fact that they were shown at all.
I think it’s very easy for ‘normal’ people to see people with depression, eating disorders or even OCD as they’ve been acclimatised to it through films and TV, but hallucinations are something completely different. They’re very rarely seen outside the context of drugs and therefore it makes pretty uncomfortable viewing- even for someone like me, who actually suffers from them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this sort of thing on TV before, and I felt incredibly uncomfortable whilst watching it.
I can imagine that for someone who has never encountered someone suffering from hallucinations before this must have been pretty tough viewing.
Something that educated me a little bit was the way that the psychiatrists and mental health professionals went about finding the causes of the hallucinations- I think in society we generally equate hallucinations with schizophrenia, which is something that I did when I first watched this, but the psychiatrists first looked for a biological cause and then started to deconstruct the patient’s childhood to try and understand what she was seeing. I found this really interesting both as a mentalist and a psychology student, my brain sort of assumed that the only cure for hallucinations was medication- but after seeing this I think slightly differently.
Another issue that this episode explored was sectioning and the Mental Health Act- sectioning basically involves taking away power and rights from the patient when they are deemed a danger to themselves and others. This act means that patients can’t make decisions for themselves, must be contained in a unit/hospital and can have treatment forcefully administered to them.
For most of us this seems unthinkable, but for people who are mentally ill this is basic reality- we all live knowing that one day something could go wrong, we could snap and be sectioned.
It brings up a whole range of questions about what sanity and judgement are- when can the state step in and decide that we’re too thin, or too quiet or that the world we see is too weird for us to be allowed out. And yes, I’m being deliberately non-contextual here in trying to make a point. I’m not against sectioning, I just think that the majority of people see it as something that only happens to the ‘murderous lunatics’ and not that it could potentially happen to them… yes ‘normal’ men and women of the United Kingdom, you too could end up sectioned!
Another thing highlighted by the programme was the benefit of a diagnosis- having a name to put to something is incredibly beneficial, not only does it help massively in getting treatment but it gives the patient a hell of a lot of validation- something that I think is very helpful to the mentally ill. Due to the stigma in society and the fact that we don’t have physical symptoms having a diagnosis, a name for what’s going on in our heads and our lives is incredibly validating.
Finally this episode touches once again on something first brought up in the first one- curing or coping? It again reiterates the point that they are not there to cure the teenagers, and that’s not the approach they take, they’re just trying to teach them how to cope in society… all of this begging the question; are they teaching them how to cope, or how to fit in?