A condensed version of crisis
As a psychology undergraduate I was keen to watch the new series of Losing It: Our Mental Health Emergency, in the hope of learning more about mental health issues, diagnosis and treatment.
The series is a new Channel 4 observational documentary of frontline mental health services filmed at Nottinghamshire health care trust. It follows similar 'reality' approaches to '24 hours in police custody' and '999 what’s your emergency'.
In episode 1 we first meet Laura, a new mum experiencing postpartum psychosis, who explains she has gone from a normal person to one trying to kill her family in just two weeks. For me, I'll admit that the term psychosis tended to conjure up thoughts of somebody male, a drug user and an association with violence. The image of Laura, a young mother cuddling her baby girl, was a million miles away from that mental image. In this respect the show challenged my perception of certain mental health conditions, and helped to break down my negative stereotypes.
Next, we meet Briena, an 11-year-old girl who is experiencing suicidal thoughts. Breina was suffering anxiety and panic attacks and clearly struggled with the agony of her mental state. Hearing a young girl state clearly that she wants to die was heart-breaking and it affected the whole family. Briena’s parents felt they could no longer keep her safe, an issue no parent should have to face alone. This got me wondering: ‘How does an eleven-year-old who is having panic attacks and suicidal thoughts get to this point? What support, if any, have her parents been receiving? Where are the early help interventions to prevent people getting to crisis point?’
I was impressed by how the clinicians diagnosed Briena with autism. Her case was complex, and autism wasn’t the first thing that sprang to mind. Yet it seemed that the diagnosis of autism was reached through a brief discussion between professionals. However, I suspected there was more to the procedure than what we were shown. I realised that the show is only a snapshot of mental health interventions and that what we are shown as viewers is a condensed version of crisis, diagnosis and treatment.
So, whilst I think the show was beneficial in helping to breakdown negative stereotypes, we are only being offered a snapshot of the patient’s journey. The show claims to be the real story of mental health in Britain today, but with large chunks of the patient’s journey omitted from the programme it runs the risk of coming across as for entertainment purposes rather than education. It's interesting viewing and I look forward to seeing if the whole picture develops in other episodes… but I may have to stick with my studies to get my true education on mental health issues.
- Claire Birch is studying Psychology and Counselling with the Open University.
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