I love a good documentary. Not just about mental health. About anything really. I've watched all kinds of murder, medical and family documentaries. I don't know what it is about me, I just love to learn new things. Even if I'm not particularly interested in that topic, I'll probably watch it anyway because who doesn't want to learn a new fact that you can impress your friends with. Call me a nerd, I don't care. LOL!
You lot know that mental health is one of my biggest passions in life. I will fight till the day I die to remove the stigma, raise awareness and support those with mental health issues in any way I can. I love to learn about other people's experiences of different mental health problems that I haven't experienced and how they have overcome them, managing to get their life back on track.
For every naff TV show out there that portrays mental illness in a negative or stereotyped way, there is a fantastic mental health documentary to reverse the damage. Unfortunately, I know that documentaries of any sort, don't reach the mass audiences that sitcoms and soaps do. Which is why we need better representation across the TV spectrum, not just in documentaries. That aside, here are five mental health documentaries which do a fantastic job of portraying the reality of mental illness. It was so hard to pick my top five because there is so many that I love, but in the end, these five stood out to me the most which are why I choose them. I hope you enjoy.
1. Don't call me crazy
This documentary gives us an incredible insight into one of the largest young persons mental health centres in the UK, the McGuiness unit in Manchester. A centre which is the last resort for young people with eating disorders, psychosis, OCD or who self-harm. This inpatient programme is used to try and change their lives around. They filmed both the staff and patients during both the good times and bad. I don't know if there is any other documentary that accurately represents mental health wards as well as this one does. They show the reality of what it is like from the inside, that they are not full of murders or criminals, just some of the half a million young people who struggle with their mental health. Although it is a hospital, they show you how they make it as homely as possible and the daily schedule works.
What I also love about this programme is that they also focus on the 30 members of staff who work at the unit, what they do and how they look after the young people on the ward. It's so heart-warming to see the young people recover and leave. On the contrast, it can be upsetting to see how much these young people's lives and health is being stripped from them, due to mental illness. On the plus side, it's highly educational and gives a fantastic insight to those who want to find out more about mental health hospitals.
Watch it here.
Watch it here.
2. I'm broken inside
Sara, a 17-year-old being failed by the NHS mental health system wrote her struggles with mental illness down in a diary. After her death, her sister Stacey reads her extracts from her diary. Sara's problems started when she was 11, by the age of 14 she had an eating disorder. Sara was also bullied. Sara was being looked after by CAMHS. A service which was and still is in complete crisis. They tell the heartbreaking story of how appalling Sara was treated by the service, resulting in her staying in a children's ward, on the other side of the country to where they lived.
The purpose of this documentary is to highlight the mental health crisis amongst young people we have in today's society but also how the NHS is just not doing enough to support those affected and in desperate need of help. They highlight the physical abuse Sara received, the confusion with what to do with her and the severe lack of services. I find this documentary unbearable to watch because it's too hard to hear what happened to this young girl, but I know how important it is to raise awareness of how unfunded NHS mental health care is in the UK.3. Extreme OCD camp
Watch it here.
Watch it here.
Extreme OCD camp was one of the first documentaries I ever watched about mental health, probably when I was 13 or 14. It's safe to say it really opened by eyes to the world of mental illness. This documentary follows six young Brits who spend 10 days in the USA trying to overcome their OCD. They spent time in the northern American wilderness on a trek, undergoing a radical treatment programme to change their lives around.
What I love the most about this documentary is how it REALLY portrays OCD. It doesn't just focus on one type of OCD, they have young people with 'pure O' OCD, contamination OCD and symmetry OCD. They don't add to the stigma or stereotypes around OCD by showing clips of how obsessive-compulsive disorder robs their independence in their everyday lives. At times it is hard watching these young people suffer but equally, it fills me with joy watching them form friendships and beat OCD.
Watch it here.
Unlike the rest of these documentaries, this one has never been on TV. It's a homemade documentary made by Claire, who wanted to raise awareness of the reality of what living with OCD is really like and speak to people across the UK and via skype, who also suffer from the condition to hear their personal stories of how OCD has affected their life. Claire started this documentary in 2012 and throughout the process recorded little video diaries to document how she was feeling. I think this a lovely addition to the documentary, it makes it more real and raw. It definitely struck a chord with me.
Claire's documentary is one of the most educational documentaries out there about OCD. She breaks down the stigma and represents OCD accurately by not only sharing their own stories but speaks to 40 over sufferers from all walks of life. If you don't know much about OCD or think it is just all about cleanliness and organisation if you ever said your OCD because you like your pencils in rainbow order or if you STILL think that we all OCD within us, you need to watch this documentary.
Watch it here.
5. Me and my mental illness
This documentary holds a special place in my heart. I watched this documentary, while I went through a really bad episode of my depression. Probably one of the worst I've ever experienced. This documentary interviews eight people, six non-famous people and two famous people; Frank Bruno and Allister Cambel. One of the people interviewed in this show was Rich, a good friend, fellow mental health blogger and OCD Youth campaigner. It was so amazing to see Rich on the TV talking so openly about his mental health. I was incredibly proud of him.
This is the most simple, laid back realistic documentaries on mental health out there. The eight people, sit on a chair in a plain room and they talk about their experiences with a wide range of mental health issues from bipolar to OCD and depression to BPD. It was so raw and so real. I honestly couldn't thank Knickerbocker Glory enough for this accurate and inspiring documentary. I just wish it was a series and not a one-off episode.
And there we have five very different but truly amazing documentaries which accurately represent what living with a mental illness is like. They educate, they inspire and they break down the stigma that surrounds mental illness. I will always be thankful for any mental health documentary that accurately represents mental health. They help both the suffers and the non-sufferers. The educated and the non-educated. Fingers crossed for more fantastic mental health documentaries in the future.
I would love to know your thoughts on these documentaries and if there are any others you have watched which you recommend. Let me know in the comments below!