Medicine And The Media

Realism about mental illness

BMJ 1995; 310 doi: (Published 06 May 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:1205
  1. Declan McLoughlin

    The documentary-realist tradition has long been acknowledged to be Britain's outstanding contribution to film. However, realism can be limiting as it is impossible in a single short film to show everything. Documentary film makers have to be selective about how they represent their subjects and what is included in and, perhaps more importantly, excluded from the final version. Viewers tend to be unaware of such inherent biases, particularly when the film has the imprimatur of an institution such as the BBC. A typical example of this phenomenon is Minders, a compelling series of self contained, fly on the wall documentaries about a community mental health team based in Battersea, south London.

    The best, most provocative, and also most tendentious of the opening three programmes was the first—“Whose mind is it anyway?”—in which a young black Ghanaian man was compulsorily admitted to hospital and treated under section 2 of the Mental Health Act. When we first meet John Baptist, formerly Philip, …

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