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9 of the most important BBC documentaries about mental health

To mark the release of BBC Three’s new mental health documentary, Joey Essex: Grief And Me, we’ve taken a look back at some of the most brilliant BBC Three documentaries on the topic so far. 

When it comes to captivating documentary films and docuseries, there are few places which do it quite as well as BBC Three.

Take a look through the channel’s back catalogue on BBC 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, BBC Three’s documentaries are known for starting important conversations.

One topic in particular 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.

So, to mark the release of BBC Three’s new mental health documentary, Joey Essex: Grief And Me, which sees the TOWIE star explore how his grief over the loss of his mother at 10 years old has affected his life, we’ve taken a look back at some of the most brilliant BBC Three documentaries on the topic so far. 

The best BBC documentaries about mental health

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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.

Roman Kemp: Our Silent Emergency is available to watch in full on BBC iPlayer

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.

The Truth About Improving Your Mental Health is available to watch in full on BBC iPlayer.

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Nadiya: Anxiety And Me 

Nadiya Hussain
Best BBC mental health documentaries: Nadiya Hussain's “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.

Select clips from Nadiya: Anxiety And Me are available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

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Olly Alexander: Growing Up Gay 

Olly Alexander
Best BBC mental health documentaries: Olly Alexander's “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.

Olly Alexander: Growing Up Gay is available to watch in full on BBC iPlayer.

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Jesy Nelson: Odd One Out 

Jesy Nelson
Best BBC mental health documentaries: Jesy Nelson's “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.

Jesy Nelson: Odd One Out is available to watch in full on BBC iPlayer

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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?

Gaming And Me: Identity, Connections and Support is available to watch in full on BBC iPlayer.

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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.

Select clips from David Harewood: Psychosis And Me are available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

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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.

PTSD: The War In My Head is available to watch in full on BBC iPlayer.

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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.

Ugly Me: My Life With Body Dysmorphia is available to watch in full on BBC iPlayer.  

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 jo@samaritans.org.

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Images: Getty/ BBC

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