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. Hooman Keshavarzi | Decolonizing Mental Health

4m 3s

Muslims don’t often seek mental healthcare because of the dearth of services that integrate faith-based concepts into treatment practices. Instead, they seek help from family members, clergymen - people who don’t have the formal training to provide them with adequate care. Dr Hooman Keshavarzi’s Khalil Center provides that much-needed oasis that is a confluence of psychiatry and the Islamic faith.


  • 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

  • Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery

    2m 55s

    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.

  • Cecilia's Story: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Cecilia's Story

    2m 34s

    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.

  • Episode 4 Preview: New Frontiers: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    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.

  • Cynthia Piltch and Electroconvulsive Therapy: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Cynthia Piltch and Electroconvulsive Therapy

    3m 54s

    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.

  • Hysteria: asset-mezzanine-16x9


    3m 59s

    How do the beliefs of the day shape the understanding of mental illness? This clip explores how biases, have formed the basis of many mental health diagnoses. Until late into the 20th century, for example, hysteria was a diagnosis given to any woman who didn't fit the archetypal female stereotype.

  • Episode 1 Preview: Evil Or Illness: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Episode 1 Preview: Evil Or Illness

    2m 25s

    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.

  • 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.


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