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Ghost Canyon

The Mysteries of Mental Illness
(2-DVD / NR / 2021 / PBS)

Overview: Explore the evolution in understanding, and the dramatic attempts across generations, to unravel the difficult questions surrounding mental illness people have grappled with throughout history: What causes it? And how is it best treated?

DVD Verdict: Directed by Peter Yost, Written by Edna Alburq and Narrated by Condola Rashad, this fascinating new PBS documentary The Mysteries of Mental Illness is a 4 part program.

In truth, it is at its best when interviewing individuals and showing their stories, but too often gets sidetracked by political events which are less interesting and have been covered more skillfully by other documentaries.

It also seems like in their zeal to show the scientific bases of Psychology the film makers ignored the huge unanswered questions we have about how the brain works and why people do what they do.

But other than these issues the show has some good information and is worth a watch, of that have no doubt.

Episode 1 – Evil or Illness?: Examine ancient conceptions of mental illness and the establishment of psychiatry. Hear contemporary stories of people living with mental illness, including an aspiring astrophysicist with schizophrenia and an Olympics-bound boxer with OCD.

Episode 2 – Who’s Normal?: Trace efforts to develop guidelines for diagnosing mental illness rooted in empirical science rather than dogma. Explore how science and societal factors are deeply entwined with shifting definitions of mental health and mental illness.

Episode 3 – The Rise and Fall of the Asylum: Follow the origin and downfall of mental asylums in the U.S. Glimpse inside Cook County prison, the nation’s largest unintended mental health facility, meet the detainees in their care, and see the challenges they face both inside and out.

Episode 4 – The New Frontiers: Explore today’s most cutting-edge treatments, based on the latest understanding of mental illness, through profiles of patients undergoing deep brain stimulation surgery, infusions of ketamine and modern electro-convulsive therapy.

Opening with the dire fact that one in four people will suffer from a mental illness during their lifetime, combined with the Pandemic, this is an issue that has been magnified in recent times.

As noted, each of the broadcast hours features up-close portraits of individuals sharing their deeply personal stories, as well as important insight from mental health practitioners, experts and scholars.

Jeffrey A. Lieberman’s book, Shrinks: The Untold Story of Psychiatry, was one of the inspirations for Mysteries of Mental Illness and his is among the many voices featured in the series. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

Official PBS DVD Purchase Link