Tonight at 10PM, PBS will broadcast A New State of Mind: Ending the Stigma of Mental Illness, narrated by Academy Award-nominated actress and mental health advocate Glenn Close. Both Close's sister and nephew are coping with mental health challenges, like one in every four Americans.
Surprisingly, the documentary is upbeat and shows Californians living full lives despite mental illness. The film's goal is to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and get more people to come in for treatment.
With support and treatment, from 70 to 90 percent of people diagnosed with a mental illness can have a significant reduction in symptoms and improved quality of life. Unfortunately, two-thirds of Californians who have access to psychological care don't get it. For many the reason is stigma. As participant Monica Potts put it, her parents didn't discuss mental illness but said, 'What's wrong with you, girl?'
A New State of Mind features Orange County residents Greg Louganis and Clayton Chau. Dr. Chau, a Santa Ana psychiatrist, discusses his own experience with trauma and mental illness. Born in Vietnam, he escaped by boat to a refugee camp in Malaysia, where he was a victim of abuse. He started having nightmares in medical school, but learned to cope with his mental health challenges and use his experiences to help his community and educate doctors.
Greg Louganis, Olympic diver and star of ABC's Splash, attended Mission Viejo High School and UC Irvine. He won four gold medals at the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games on the springboard and platform. In 1988, he won in an inspiring display of courage after suffering a concussion.
Yet despite his accolades, Louganis reveals years of battling with abuse, bullying and clinical depression, including several suicide attempts. “When I grew up you didn't talk about mental health or depression or anything like that.”
After treatment and medication, he now uses yoga and meditation to cope. Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy speaks frankly about his own bipolar disorder. But he also talks about how his father, Ted Kennedy, saw his brothers violently killed. He suffered post stress disorder, “but we didn't give it a name then.”
For both Kennedy and Louganis, speaking about their own issues is a key to fighting stigma. The film and website provide links to mental health resources. A New State of Mind also takes a fascinating look at how people in minority communities, from Mexican-American field workers to Laotian Hmong refugees to Native Americans, are using innovative methods like gardening and traditional Indian dance to address mental illness.