Play Cook County Jail

Black men with mental health problems are more likely to be incarcerated than white men. 50,000 people pass through Cook County Jail each year and 90% are black. One inmate, Jeremiah Robinson, is diagnosed with schizophrenia, anxiety, bipolar and PTSD, and has been arrested 15 times since high school. How did prisons and jails become a frontline treatment for the mentally ill?

Play New Frontiers in Mental Health Care Access

For many of the million-plus people with mental illness in the U.S., access to treatment and insurance is limited. Psychiatrist Sidney Hankerson is working to combat this by bringing healthcare to culturally relevant settings. In the black community, this might mean forming partnerships with trusted community establishments, like barbershops and churches, and developing interventions from there.

Play The Lobotomy

In 1936, neurologist Walter Freeman performed the first lobotomy in the U.S. It was widely seen as a miraculous intervention and a solution to saving some of the half-million mentally ill patients languishing in asylum 'hell holes'. The procedure soon became widespread and was even used for a member of the Kennedy family. But many lobotomies were performed on patients against their will.

Play Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery

Matthew Rosenberg is having deep brain stimulation surgery to help his debilitating OCD condition. In three weeks he'll have another electrode implanted in the other side of his brain, followed by a separate surgery to put batteries in his chest to power the device. Will the groundbreaking surgery help him to manage his severe OCD? Initial signs are promising.

Play Cynthia Piltch and Electroconvulsive Therapy

Fear and misunderstanding have created a stigma around ECT or Electroconvulsive Therapy, but today it’s done with targeted current, anesthesia, and muscle relaxants, making it much safer with fewer side effects. Cynthia has been hospitalized for depression five times and tried many treatments, with little success, before turning to ECT.

Play The Mass Incarceration of the Mentally Ill

As asylums were deemed inhumane and closed down, the social commitment to community care disappeared, and monies were allocated elsewhere. So began the mass incarceration of the mentally ill as, with nowhere to go, they wound up homeless, or in nursing homes or jails. The irony is that they have not been deinstitutionalized, and their treatment resembles the punitive systems of the past.

Play Psychedelics and Mental Illness

As psychedelic drugs became synonymous with the counter-culture of the 1960s, they were labeled as more dangerous than they actually are, delaying research into them. Recently we've learned more about the chemical makeup of these substances and how they can be helpful in alleviating addiction, anxiety, and depression.

Play The Kirkbride Asylum

Thomas Kirkbride's 'hospitals for the insane' were built for people who had nowhere else to go. They were intended to be a retreat from the world; a place to be cured. Kirkbride believed that the restorative atmosphere of his institutions would be therapeutic. The goal was to rehabilitate patients and send them back to society as productive citizens.

Play Experimental Treatments and the Rise of Eugenics

By the early 20th century, mental asylums had become extremely overcrowded, and very little was known about how to treat these patients. Out of view from the public eye, desperate doctors experimented with new treatments. When treatments failed, patients were labeled biologically defective, fueling the Eugenics program, and the involuntary sterilization of thousands of patients.

Play A Debilitating Condition

For 8 years, Matthew Rosenberg has dealt with a debilitating form of OCD. He hyperventilates throughout the day and is in near-constant pain. having tried numerous therapies and medicines with no results, his last hope is the high-tech surgery he’s waiting for, where electrodes will be transplanted into his brain.

Play The Asylum Hill Project

Some 30,000 patients came through the Mississippi State Hospital for the Insane, and many never left. The asylum cemetery was recently discovered by construction workers, and approximately 7,000 burials were discovered. Not a single one has been identified, but records in the State archives reveal why many were admitted and how they died.

Play Episode 3 Preview: The Rise and Fall of the Asylum

Mass confinement in mental asylums and extreme treatments – from lobotomy to coma therapy – were the standard for treating mental illness in the United States until a few decades ago. Today, one of the largest de-facto mental health facilities in the United States is Cook County Jail in Chicago, where more than one-third of inmates have a mental health diagnosis.

Play Episode 4 Preview: New Frontiers

A look at today’s most cutting-edge treatments, based on the latest scientific understanding of the biological underpinnings of mental illness, with profiles of patients undergoing a variety of vanguard treatments. These include Deep Brain Stimulation surgery, modern electro-convulsive therapy, and MDMA-assisted therapy, also known as ecstasy or molly to treat PTSD.

Play My OCD World

Ginny Fuchs discovered boxing in college. She is now an Olympic boxer and rates in the top three in the world. Though she has the self-control to spar eight rounds, hit the bag for six rounds, and do a 30-minute run, she can't clean a countertop and wash her hands in less than two hours, due to her OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). She is working to understand why.

Play Ryan Mains and PTSD

Army Veteran Ryan Mains has struggled to accept his diagnosis of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), because of the stereotypes and the stigma that he saw as being associated with mental illness. But having been a medic on the front lines in Iraq, he had seen things that haunted him, and his every life became increasingly difficult as intrusive thoughts began to alter his behavior.

Play Ginny Fuchs and OCD

Watch a clip in which Olympic boxer Ginny Fuchs shares a bit of what it's like to live with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) an illness characterized by anxiety, repetitive unwanted thoughts and compulsive behaviors. Diagnosed with the illness as a sixth-grader, Ginny hid her OCD for years in fear of being judged. Her OCD, unfortunately, has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Play Episode 1 Preview: Evil Or Illness

For much of history, people living with schizophrenia, or many other illnesses, would have been seen as either a prophet or a devil. Episode 1 explores ancient conceptions of mental illness and the establishment of psychiatry with the rise of Sigmund Freud. This preview shows an Olympic boxer struggling with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

Play Mysteries of Mental Illness | Preview

Mysteries of Mental Illness, airing on PBS in June 2021, explores the story of mental illness in science and society. The four-part series traces the evolution of this complex topic from its earliest days to present times. It explores dramatic attempts across generations to unravel the mysteries of mental illness and gives voice to contemporary Americans across a spectrum of experiences.

Play Episode 2 Preview: Who's Normal?

Episode 2 traces the dramatic fight in the second half of the 20th century to develop mental illness standards rooted in empirical science rather than dogma, including the evolution of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual). Meet Ryan Mains, who struggles with PTSD, Mia Yamamoto, California’s first openly transgender lawyer, and Michael Walrond who lives with his own depressive disorder.

Play Cecilia's Story

Cecilia McGough has struggled with hallucinations since she was a little kid. Growing up in a religious community she hid what she was going through, fearing it was some kind of punishment. Even as a young adult, while making a name for herself in astrophysics, she couldn't escape the stigma of her illness, even in mental health settings.

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