2 July 2013
Don’t Call Me Crazy launches It’s A Mad World - a season of films on BBC Three looking at a range of mental health issues affecting young people in Britain today. Sarah Tonin responds with a review asking who will speak out against this kind of exploitative representation?
My friend Sian asked me what I thought of 'Don't call me crazy.' So I began from the point of view of the patients. The programme is set in a children's mental health unit. it follows three girls. One girl is particularly disturbed, the other wants to be a dancer and the youngest is a very mature 13 year old with OCD.
So these young girls are filmed. They're filmed being restrained - many times; being persuaded to eat something because they're refusing food and everyone's very worried. Their reactions to having their rooms searched, the nursing team discussing them and so on. Nothing is left out.
This drove me crazy. There is nothing educative about this. Although at one point a group of girls talk about their experience of discrimination, it's like the programme makers popped this in to keep people like me quiet.
I wondered how much worse their experiences of discrimination will be after this programme. I know what I'm talking about. I was one of the characters in BBC 3's ‘I Love Being Mad’. I have never stopped regretting that I was in this. Immediately after the documentary I was approached many times by strangers which made me very uncomfortable. Some wanted to talk, and that was interesting when I wasn't feeling paranoid. Others just stared at me like I was something unpleasant. Once the film is out there there's no going back and the existence of that film will haunt me for the rest of my life.
But at least I was filmed trying to get on with my life. I wasn't in hospital and ill like these girls. But because of a diagnosis of schizophrenia I've been restrained many times and injected and it's very humiliating and frightening. How much more so when there's a camera about.
I'm sure the programme makers would have said to the girls that they are educating the public and tackling discrimination. But there's no public interest here, and I really worry for these girls. Future dance schools? Future university interviews? Who can tell how their future lives might be affected by this.
So worrying about that drove me crazy. And if I was someone contemplating getting help for the first time because of mental distress or on behalf of a friend or relative I wouldn't after watching this programme. My friend Sian pointed out that the middle classes used to pay to view the inmates of the asylums for entertainment.
"Don't Call Me Crazy " is the contemporary equivalent. That's crazy craziness. We're still being sacrificed to entertain the public. Mental Health Media used to be a watchdog for this kind of situation. Who will protect the mad from the media when they're so unwell?
Don’t Call Me Crazy is being broadcast on Friday 5 July, Monday 8 July, Tuesday 9 July on BBC Three. For more information go to www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01b86w5