It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about a TV series but tonight I was catching up with Don’t call me crazy that was broadcast on BBC Three on Monday evening. Filmed over a year in the McGuinness Unit for Adolescent Mental Health in Manchester. The centre is one of the largest teenage mental health inpatient units in the country and the series focuses on the young people who are working hard to get better. You can read more about it on their website and watch the trailer here. I’d highly recommend it to anyone who is even vaguely interested in young people, mental health, wellbeing, parenthood, friendships….you get the picture, anyone.
One of the themes emerging from the first episode was stigma, and the impact that it has on the young people. I was particularly struck by Emma, a particularly inspiring, reflective, observant and intelligent young person, who happens to have OCD.
Emma’s first gem was to point out something that has always struck me as odd – why people think they have a right to pass judgement and attribute responsibility to mental ill health in a way that no-one would to physical health. Emma makes the brilliant observation that no-one asks what right someone has to have a cold, and yet it’s evidently an often asked question ‘what do you have to be depressed about?’. Emma is also at pains to point out that mental ill health isn’t something that just happens to a certain section of society, she seems to have a close relationship with her parents, talks about her loving home life and desperately wants to return to school; in a nutshell she states that her mental health isn’t bad because her life is bad.
Without wanting to ruin the whole episode, the most poignant observation for me comes on a home visit where her and her Mum are discussing what things are like living together. Emma says this:
OCD doesn’t like define who I am. Alright I’ve got it, umm, but I like music, I like playing the guitar, I like bands and I like the colour yellow, I like chocolate – but I don’t like all them things because I’ve got OCD, I like them things because I’m Emma, and it doesn’t define me as a person, just because I’m going through it right now and it’s a part of me right now, it doesn’t define me as a person.
This point was sooo strong to me, think of how often we define people by labels: jobs, location, sexuality, health, age, and a myriad of other groupings designed to make it easier to process and understand life. When it comes to health, especially mental health, it is essential that we don’t get sucked into that trap however much easier it might be for us to do so.
Emma is not the teenager with OCD.
Emma is an intelligent, attractive, astute, reflective, articulate, music loving, chocolate eating, brilliant young person with a love of the colour yellow. Emma is also someone who most of us could learn a lot from, so if you didn’t catch it tune in, and if you did don’t forget next Monday.
The most yellow shot I could easily find! The new dawn from my birthday earlier this month.