When it comes to captivating documentary films and docuseries, there are few places which do it quite as well as the BBC.
Take a look through the channel’s back catalogue on iPlayer and you’ll see what we’re talking about – from Zara McDermott’s film about her experience with revenge porn to Little Mix’s Leigh-Anne’s exploration of racism in the music industry, the BBC’s documentaries are known for starting important conversations.
One topic that the channel covers particularly well is mental health. Whether it’s showcasing the latest research into mental health treatment or providing a platform for the UK’s biggest stars to share their experiences, there’s plenty of eye-opening content to explore.
Here’s our pick of the best BBC documentaries on mental health to check out now.
The best BBC documentaries about mental health
Joe Wicks: Mental Health, My Family And Me
People across the UK may know Joe Wicks as the fitness guru who kept the nation moving during lockdown, but this new documentary will dive into his experiences as the child of two parents who struggled with their mental health throughout his childhood.
Executive produced by famous documentarian Louis Theroux, the documentary will see Joe revisit his childhood and “have frank discussions with his family and friends,” all the while revealing how his experiences at a young age have motivated him to use exercise and healthy living to look after his own mental health.
Joe Wicks: Mental Health, My Family And Me is yet to get an official release date, but will air on BBC One
Roman Kemp: Our Silent Emergency
In this powerful and moving documentary, the radio host and television personality Roman Kemp explores the mental health and suicide crisis affecting young men across the UK.
Filmed after Kemp lost his best friend, radio producer Joe Lyons, to suicide in August 2020, the film considers what can be done next to support those suffering from suicidal thoughts and encourage more young men to seek help for their mental health.
The Truth About Improving Your Mental Health
Did you know that you can adapt your workouts to specifically target parts of the brain that influence mood? Or the good bacteria in your gut could also evoke mental health benefits?
For this fascinating look at our minds and bodies, clinical psychologist Professor Tanya Byron and former England footballer and TV presenter Alex Scott, who has suffered from depression, investigate how the latest science can help improve our mental health and wellbeing.
Nadiya: Anxiety And Me
In this raw and moving one-off documentary, 2015 Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain opens up about the extreme anxiety and debilitating panic attacks she has suffered since childhood.
Speaking bravely about what it’s like to live with anxiety– something nearly 5 million people in the UK suffer from – the film follows her journey to find the cause of her panic attacks, as she investigates some of the treatments available, including therapy.
Olly Alexander: Growing Up Gay
Actor and lead singer of Years And Years Olly Alexander explores why the gay community is more vulnerable to mental health issues, as he powerfully opens up about his own long-term battles with depression that stem from young adulthood.
In the film, Olly speaks with young people as they battle issues that parallel his own - from homophobic bullying to eating and anxiety disorders - and asks what more can be done to address them.
Jesy Nelson: Odd One Out
Onstage, she was part of Little Mix, one of the biggest girl-bands in the world. Offstage, though, Jesy Nelson found herself the victim of vile online abuse for years. In this documentary, the singer details how her constant torment affected the dynamics within the band and their ability to perform – as well as the intimate impact her online trolls had upon her mental health.
Gaming And Me: Identity, Connections and Support
A fascinating investigatation into the true impact of video games on the mental health and wellbeing of the 2.5 billion active gamers around the world.
While the science is still not there in terms of understanding how they can affect us, the show meets real life gamers from across the UK who believe that the positive aspects of gaming outweigh the negative. After years of being told that they make us withdrawn and violent, could video games actually help us to feel better?
David Harewood: Psychosis And Me
Actor David Harewood opens up about the psychotic breakdown he had at 23 years old, which led to him being sectioned. In this important documentary, he begins to piece together what happened to him in order to help other people understand what it’s like to experience psychosis.
He also discusses the impact that racism has on young Black men’s mental health, inspired by his own experiences.
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“I was sectioned for my mental health as the UK went into lockdown”
PTSD: The War In My Head
This film tells the stories of three British soldiers who died in 2018 following lengthy battles with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), raising serious and important questions around the whole culture of mental health care in the army. Through personal videos, voice notes, interviews and letters, it reveals the private battle these men fought with their mental health, which sadly led two of them to take their own lives.
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Body dysmorphia: “I don't see myself the way others do”
Ugly Me: My Life With Body Dysmorphia
Following 29-year-old Liane over a year, this documentary explores body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), a condition where the sufferer will obsess deeply over their appearance. Professor David Veale, one of the world’s leading experts on BDD, attempts to help Liane undo some of her deeply entrenched habits and reveal the true extent and effects of this crippling illness.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with their mental health, you can find support and resources on the mental health charity Mind’s website or see the NHS’ list of mental health helplines and organisations here.
For confidential support, you can also call the Samaritans in the UK on 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Images: Getty/ BBC
As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.