Science and Nature

Mysteries of Mental Illness

Mysteries of Mental Illness 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.

Dr. Igda Martinez | Decolonizing Mental Health

3m 24s

Deconstructing stereotypes around homelessness lies at the core of Dr. Igda Martinez’s work at the Floating Hospital. For 150 years, the New York hospital has made psychiatric care available to unhoused populations who are among society’s most neglected. Shannette Champman, a mother of two, shares her experience of seeking care when she was in need of accessible mental health care.


  • New Frontiers: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    New Frontiers

    S2021 E4 - 54m

    Look at today’s most cutting-edge treatments for mental illness, and explore one of the most urgent fronts on the battle against mental illness: the fight for inclusion – a society more open to all kinds of minds and behavior, and free from stigma, based on the understanding that mental health exists on a spectrum.

  • The Rise and Fall of the Asylum: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    The Rise and Fall of the Asylum

    S2021 E3 - 54m

    Until a few decades ago, the United States relied on mass confinement in mental asylums, for the mentally ill, as well as extreme treatments, from lobotomy to coma therapy. Today, at Cook County Jail in Chicago, more than one-third of inmates have a mental health diagnosis. Meet the detainees whose lives hang in the balance and discover the harsh realities of care both in and out of jail.

  • Who’s Normal?: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Who’s Normal

    S2021 E2 - 54m

    Learn how science and societal factors are deeply entwined with our ever-shifting definitions and diagnoses of mental health and illness. Follow the stories of Ryan Mains, an Iraq veteran struggling with PTSD, Mia Yamamoto, California’s first openly transgender lawyer, and Michael, a Harlem based pastor and healer living with depression.

  • Evil or Illness: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Evil or Illness

    S2021 E1 - 54m

    Treatment of mental illness over history has been trial and error and, today, doctors still search for answers. Follow the story of Cecilia McGough, who struggles with persistent hallucinations and delusions. Learn about Lorina Gutierrez's mysterious condition, referred to as 'Brain on Fire', and Virginia Fuchs, an Olympics-bound boxer living with OCD.

Extras + Features

  • New Frontiers in Mental Health Care Access: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    New Frontiers in Mental Health Care Access

    4m 1s

    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.

  • Brain on Fire: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Brain on Fire

    4m 8s

    When Lorina Gutierrez came down with a terrifying illness, her family thought might be possessed. Psychiatric doctors could find no medications that alleviated the symptoms, and it wasn’t until they looked for a medical explanation that it was discovered she was suffering from a virtually unknown auto-immune disease, given the name 'Brain on Fire'.

  • The Mass Incarceration of the Mentally Ill: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    The Mass Incarceration of the Mentally Ill

    2m 55s

    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.

  • My OCD World: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    My OCD World

    2m 25s

    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.

  • Who's Normal?: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Who's Normal?

    1m 30s

    What is mental illness and who is normal? Definitions of these have been defined differently over the centuries, but the boundary between illness and sickness remains very fluid. There are no biological tests to diagnose mental illness, so societies decide what constitutes behavioral and social norms, and where the lines of deviance exist.

  • The Asylum Hill Project: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    The Asylum Hill Project

    5m 21s

    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.

  • Schizophrenia and Stigma: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Schizophrenia and Stigma

    3m 14s

    Treating Schizophrenia early in a person's illness can increase the chances of success. Like many suffering from hallucinations, however, Cecilia McGough found that the stigma around her illness made it very difficult to talk about. After an incident put her in a psych ward for ten days, Cecilia gathered up the courage to open up about her illness using social media as a platform.

  • Experimental Treatments and the Rise of Eugenics: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Experimental Treatments and the Rise of Eugenics

    5m 47s

    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.

  • Mysteries of Mental Illness | Preview: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    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.

  • Michael Walrond and Depression: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Michael Walrond and Depression

    2m 34s

    Michael Walrond began to experience bouts of depression in his twenties. He didn't seek help because mental illness wasn't something people talked readily about in his community and, as a black man, he didn't want another label. After becoming a preacher he felt that admitting his illness would show a lack of trust in God, and so for years, Michael suffered in silence.

  • A Debilitating Condition: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    A Debilitating Condition

    2m 13s

    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.

  • Decolonizing Mental Health | Preview: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Decolonizing Mental Health Digital Series | Preview


    A preview of DECOLONIZING MENTAL HEALTH, an original digital series that dismantles the racism underscoring the mental healthcare industry. By focusing its gaze on the transformative work of therapists and individuals of color, it calls for redressal of the ways in which we define psychiatric illness and health.


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