How mad are you?

Thanks to everyone who wrote in telling me to watch the BBC2 documentary ‘How Mad Are You?’ A really fascinating study of the fine line between ‘mad’ and ‘sane’, and quite sensitively done (if you can overlook the strange Joe Millionaire production style).

The stories of those who had recovered from serious illness were incredibly inspiring. A friend of mine who was once diagnosed with bipolar disorder says there is little framework for positive messages in the way people are usually diagnosed: we’re given a label and told we are different from ‘normal’ people, but this isn’t accompanied by positive stories about how people have learnt to manage their conditions, and recovered to live their lives to the full. So it was great to see people who were officially ‘mentally ill’ operating as functional, successful, happy people, to the point where their condition couldn’t be spotted even by the scrutiny of experts. And meanwhile, healthy people were mistakenly diagnosed with serious mental illness – which is something for all of us to think about.

So here’s to celebrating mental diversity, and to a richer understanding of how our minds work. Top marks to the BBC for commissioning it too, I hope it’s a sign of more good things to come.

Catch ‘How Mad Are You?’ while you still can on iPlayer (for one month only).

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2 thoughts on “How mad are you?

  1. You know, it hadn’t occurred to me but you’re spot on. I thought the chap with bipolar was pretty obvious too, and I was worried from the start that the quiet women would end up labelled with depression and/or social anxiety – and so they were.

    I don’t think there was anything conscious on the part of the experts though – but it probably does reveal some social biases in the way we judge each other.

  2. I too thought it was an excellent insight to how little difference there is between those diagnosed with mental health issues and those considered “normal”. However, am I alone in noticing some sexism? Why did the three male experts only spot one (obvious – he had OCD and said he didn’t enjoy cleaning out the cows) man, and yet mistakenly label three of the women? In particular, the bi-polar man (who I thought was more obvious) was considered an interesting risk taker, whilst a quiet woman must have something wrong with her? I know such sexism existed in the 19th century (when women could be sent to an asylum for being mad enough to want to leave abusive husbands) but had hoped it had gone in the 21st century.