Channel 4 Goes Mad

The name alone of Channel 4’s latest season of documentaries and programmes has already sparked much debate online, especially on Twitter on whether the name is insensitive or gets straight to the point. Personally, I feel it fits in with the channel’s personality plus as hash tags go, Twitter is not forgiving for a long one.

In a society where depression and mental illness is not often regarded in a positive way and often used as a dramatic storyline in soaps, it is refreshing to see an attempt to open up discussion in a way to make it accessible not only to those who suffer with mental illness but those who don’t and may struggle to understand the impact such conditions have on life. I think the last time such an attempt was made was the acclaimed Stephen Fry’s The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive back in 2006.

I feel that one of the ways Channel 4 has tried to make it accessible is the use of comics such as Ruby Wax and Jon Richardson, who can describe their conditions and their experiences in a way that does not always come across too strong and difficult to take in at first, as this is a hard subject to approach. They have also set up a mini site to help show the experiences suffers of Bipolar, Schizophrenia and OCD have.

Ruby Wax’s Mad Confessions which aired tonight follows three people who open up about their mental health problems to their colleagues and staff. The three suffer from differing conditions including OCD, suicidal thoughts and depression and there is also insight in Ruby’s own experiences with depression during her life.

The idea that these three people are volunteering to open up about a difficult subject is one that is inspiring and hopefully does a lot to break down the stigma attached to mental problems. There is also discussion about the prejudice those suffering from such problems have with the law and employment. This may have been the saddest part of the programme seeing the attempts by some MPs to address this issue to an almost empty House of Commons.

This programming will hopefully evoke enough debate, not only online through the attempts by @Timetochange under the hashtag @4goesmad that it gets taken more seriously and things are put in motion to change the barriers sufferers face by being open about their own health and experiences.

If it also helps people seek out help if they identify with anyone on the programme then that is also a really good thing. The way the programme has been filmed and edited has been done brilliantly and does not belittle or trivialise the issues. At times I felt myself getting emotional as I could truly understand the feelings being expressed.

In the spirit of the programme, I feel perhaps I should be just as honest as the people who were brave enough to be open and honest despite the stigma attached.

My name is Charlotte and I am suffering with severe depression and undergoing treatment for it and now been diagnosed with atypical bipolar disorder.I have struggled with finishing my undergraduate degree as I lost confidence in any ability, struggled to cope with dealing and interacting with other people and just generally felt worthless and pathetic. I’m still trying to find treatment that will work for me and help me cope much better with everyday life. I hope for a day that saying that will not mean people will judge me negatively and avoid me but rather treat it as something as accepted as hayfever and provide the support needed during the bad times.

Now if this programme can encourage me to put this somewhere as publicly as this, then maybe others will and the general perceptions on mental health will change.

This could be one of the most important set of programmes that anyone could watch.


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