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> > > Don’t Call Me Crazy - documentary season on BBC Three

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

Time to Change worked with BBC Three to produce Don't Call Me Crazy. Tell them what you think by clicking on this link to go to their website



12 August 2013

A general comment:

Again and again point of views concentrate on 'getting better', 'moving on with life' instead of reducing stigma in society to accept that some people live differently, and have different needs, different views, have chronic cycles of illness and recovery, etc. Hence society needs to change so people can freely participate in society - not change their lives to meet acceptable standards! This is the kind of pressure that makes it tough for people to get on with living day to day because they feel like outsiders, like the 'other' not a part of society and the energy it takes to feel like one 'belongs' is staggering.


27 July 2013

I can understand that people's opinions will vary and I respect your opinion on what you thought of this programme. However, I would like to express my own opinion too. I thought that Don't Call Me Crazy was, not only informative, but it also expressed just how real these people are. You get an insight on their views on life and, whenever they spoke of themselves and how they cope with their illness, I think it made people realise how wrong it is to stereotype them as 'crazy' when they talk and feel just like anyone who isn't 'crazy'. Many people I know explained that it helped them understand why it is wrong to stereotype people with mental illness and feel they can understand them better. I have a best friend as well as other friends with mental illnesses and ALL of them agreed that this show was a good way of showing people out there just what it's like and why it's wrong to stereotype.

I also liked how, at the end of the series, the programme explained how every single person that was filmed managed to get on with their lives, whether it meant they were discharged from the unit, or were finding ways to overcome their illnesses. It gave something positive to the whole concept and expressed how people like this can indeed overcome their problems and succeed in life. I found it simply inspiring and pleasant.

As for whether their lives have been exploited, it was their choice to be filmed and they were not put under pressure to do so. Plus, I'm sure they were all aware that they would help to the cause that I explained above. I feel they have certainly made a positive impact on me.

So whether you found it discomforting or not, I would just like to say that it had a positive impact on me and all of my friends :-)


12 July 2013

I'm now in my mid 20s but in my teens and early twenties I suffered with mental health issues and spent 3 1/2 years as a mental health outpatient under my local NHS mental health team. I actually really liked the Don't Call Me Crazy documentary (I watched all three episodes) and I was particularly pleased that it showed they were in most ways just like their peers and that it showed they came from all sorts of backgrounds. I think it managed to show the grey between the black and white normal/crazy attitude that I was often on the receiving end of and that is so important. I also found the positive ending of the third episode really good - soon after my diagnosis a locum GP told me 'people like you can't stay in full time employment' with reference to my mental health and my struggles with always attending work when very unwell. Seeing a programme that shows people can progress on past their mental health is so important, when I was told I was unemployable at 19 by a GP it destroyed me and the damage it did to my self-esteem is something I still carry today. He was wrong though and I hope Don't Call Me Crazy helps young people with mental health issues see that it isn't the end of your life when you enter the mental health system.

Joe McConnell

10 July 2013

Completely agree with you Sarah. I can't bear to watch this kind of gratuitous voyeuristic TV - so won't be watching it. Sorry to hear of your distress and fully understand that. As a disabled person and system survivor, I am horrified by the level of exploitation that the BBC is sinking to.

Aidan Moesby

5 July 2013

I think its about time MH orgs stopped condoning language that reinforces negative stereotyping and perpetuates stigma. The whole program strand being called #itsamadworld with #dontcallmecrazy - what kind of message is that giving. It does not create a picture of strong positive individuals in recovery making positive proactive life choices and leading as fulfilled and as successful a life as possible. They should think about the language they use and who they metaphorically get into bed with. (i work a lot with language) The orgs TFC should take their own advice and change. Yes i agree with reappropriation of language but that works with common knowledge which the (sweeping generalisation for sake of making a point) majority of the population don't have - they aren't in on the joke as it were and therefore it is rendered impotent in one way and reinforcing in another, -ve way.

I really have to question consent of those who were filmed - if you are on a section what is your capacity? to make decisions like being filmed? who is it edited for, how is it edited, what is it trying to do? i don't feel anymore informed or educated. I don't feel it's a balanced accurate portrayal of someones life. It is just above lowest common denominator tv. Car crash trite sensationalist rubbish.

It does not renegotiate the dialogue or narrative around mental health. It does not reframe positively diagnosis to recovery. Also it portrays 'normal adolescent behaviour' as mad because of context.

The only redeeming feature is the absence of Self styled mental health guru (not in my name) Ruby Wax.


3 July 2013

I haven't seen the programme, but how is it possible for children to be exploited like this?? Why did their parents agree on this? It seems unbelievable... :(

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