Autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), schizophrenia—you are probably familiar with all these disorders to some extent. But sometimes it’s worthwhile to review the basics, and that’s where Healthy Minds comes in. The Long Island–based TV series offers an excellent introduction to a variety of mental illnesses and neurological disorders, featuring top researchers, such as Nobel Prize–winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel of Columbia University and child psychiatrist Judith Rapoport of the National Institute of Mental Health. The series is available online, and episodes are scheduled to air nationally on PBS stations in the fall.
Each episode focuses on a particular disorder and usually includes three stages: an overview of symptoms, a description of current treatments, and patient narratives. A chief goal of the series, hosted by psychiatrist Jeffrey Borenstein, is to help remove the stigma associated with mental illness and raise awareness of the treatments available. In the segment on OCD, radio news anchor Jeff Bell describes how he used to hide his symptoms from co-workers and loved ones. Only when he discovered Rapoport’s book on childhood OCD did Bell realize that he suffered from a known disorder that could be treated. In another installment, law professor Elyn Saks gives a surprisingly plain-spoken account of how she learned to manage her schizophrenia symptoms, such as hallucinations.
The series seems to be aimed mostly at people with very little background knowledge; the producers steer clear of any research that is cutting-edge or controversial. But even knowledgeable viewers will find the patient accounts compelling, because they humanize disorders that many of us think of or know about only in the abstract.