June 25, 2013

BBC 3's Don't Call Me CrazyIt is six years since I was discharged from an adolescent psychiatric unit, though the memories of this time reside vividly within my mind.

It was therefore with trepidation that I tuned into ’Don’t call me Crazy’, the start of BBC3’s season on mental health. The programme offered a snapshot of life in an adolescent psychiatric unit.

I was close to turning off as I watched the first five minutes

I was close to turning off as I watched the first five minutes. The sight of distraught young people being restrained face down on the floor made me very uncomfortable.

I do not believe these scenes should have been broadcast and I am shocked that the health authority allowed this to be filmed. The programme appeared to be exploiting young people at their most vulnerable.

I have no doubt that the BBC supported the young contributors, however one has to question how a sectioned young person can give informed consent to be filmed when deemed unable to make decisions about their health.

As a mental health campaigner I am supportive of any work that will tackle mental health stigma. However it is questionable whether or not this program worked to challenge or indeed promote stigma. Focusing on the most vulnerable individuals in society and filming them in extreme distress may further alienate people with mental illness.

'Don’t call me crazy' featured incident after incident

Instead of highlighting the boredom which often dominates inpatient life, ’Don’t call me crazy’ featured incident after incident. Although there were some lighter moments they were glossed over and the program failed to show the powerful bonds that can develop between young people. Not explaining the motivations, thoughts or emotions behind their challenging behaviour I fear many viewers will have been unable to identify with the young people.

There was a substantial amount of footage that I feel was unnecessary and sensationalist, for example showing fresh self harm injuries. My thoughts turned to friends, (also diagnosed with mental illness) who I knew would be watching the triggering images. I feared for their safety and that of others upset by the graphic footage despite the generic pre-broadcast warning. Many viewers will have been attracted to the programme due to their personal experiences, but for many this may cause their mental health to deteriorate.

The programme improved as it continued

However, the programme improved as it continued. At times, it gave an accurate insight into inpatient life and everything from the room searches to the key snatching I could identify with. The BBC also rightly promoted a support helpline as the programme finished.

I would like to conclude by congratulating all the brave young people who contributed. I hope you continue to progress on your journey to recovery.

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