Tag: documentaries

BBC Three’s Defying The Label Season Awards


BBC Three recently ran a disability season called ‘Defying the Label’. They showed many programmes on the topic of disability and the content was massively diverse. I watched all of the episodes featured in the season, not all of which are mentioned below, and generally really enjoyed it. Many of the episodes are available on BBC Iplayer and a full list can be found here. I have made my own ‘awards’ for the programmes I felt stood out from the crowd, but please know that this is based on my own opinion and experience watching the programmes alone.

Most Entertaining: The Unbreakables

The Unbreakables was a fantastic three part look into the wonderful students at National Star College. Students there have multiple disabilities, many with some form of physical and learning disability. The episodes presented us with fantastic stereotype-busting characters such as Xenon the ladies man and Lewis the party animal. There were hilarious scenes and heartbreaking ones. I loved this series.

(I’ve also visited NSC and it really is that brilliant!!)

Most cringeworthy
: Find a Home for my Brother and Disabled in an Instant

Oh dear. These programmes really did not do it for me. The emphasis seemed to be on how being disabled makes you different in a bad way. At times I found the narrators squirm enduring with their attitudes. I was hoping for coverage of the major troubles disabled people find when looking for housing. Alas, instead we followed the sister of a disabled young man who has been asked to leave his specialist school. He has severe learning difficulties and features surprisingly little in the documentary. Instead it feels like we go on a magical mystery tour of people who have the burden of looking after disabled people. To me I was horrified when a potential cure begins to be explored as a way of fixing her brother. In ‘Disabled in An Instant’ we meet lots of disabled people talking about how awful it is to be disabled. Need I say more?

Most shocking
: The World’s Worst Place to be Disabled

This programme was stomach turning. Sophie Morgan goes to Ghana to see what Human Rights Watch describes as unimaginable for herself. Exploring prayer camps, fetish priests and huge discrimination- this is a truly horrifying watch as we learn how disabled children are killed in Ghana under the thin guise of a spiritual ceremony.


Most Informative: The Ugly Face Of Disability Hate Crime

I’m a big fan of Adam Pearson- he has raised the profile of facially disfigured people massively and has a fantastic sense of humour. This documentary was a great example of a disabled person kicking ass to fight discrimination. The documentary was following his personal battle against social media giants allowing threatening comments about his disfigurement to stay online and his wider fight to bring awareness of disfigurements to the public eye. The episode also raises awareness of how disability hate crime goes massively unreported to the police, suggesting it is being tolerated by disabled people rather than reported. Did you know that disability hate crime is even treated judicially less seriously than hate crimes against other minority demographics? It felt like a programme about disability for disabled people. Excellent.


Eye Opening: A Very Personal Assistant

Three part series following disabled young people who are looking to employ like minded carers of the same age. This was a really eye opening and interesting series with really positive disabled role models. I think it would really encourage unemployed young people to explore the possibility of becoming a carer.


Special Mention: The Boy Who Wanted His Leg Cut Off

A special mention must go to 11 year old Dillon Chapman and family who share the journey of trying to free Dillon from the agony of having a leg of tumours. I really thought this programme was beautiful, from the fact that Dillon is so sure of what he needs to the fact that his parents support him no matter what. This was the only programme about disabled children in the series but it definitely astounded viewers.


Overall Triumph: The Unbreakables

The Unbreakables was wit doubt my favourite series in the season. It will have done miracles for the learning difficulty community in the way of awareness raising and touched on so many wider issues like disability and sex, alcohol and housing. It had me crying with laughter and empathy. An amazing legacy to the disabled community.

My Thoughts on the Season Overall:

The Defying The Label season has been many things. Inspiring, educating, funny and frustrating. Why were sensory disabilities like sight and hearing impairments completely ignored? Why was the focus only on learning and physical disabilities? Why were children with disabilities not so prominent? What about mental illness? These are all questions I would love to ask. The season certainly hit the spot in the way of disabled narratives with many documentaries having a disabled person as the investigator but still sadly most being wheelchair users, which the public see as the ‘stereotype’ of disability. It would have been good to have some more  invisible disability representation to over come this. Overall I feel my hours were well spent on this season and I look forward to disability seasons in years to come.

Kids in Crisis: The Bits It Missed

Channel 4 recently showed a documentary discussing problems in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, focusing mainly on the country’s overall lack of child inpatient psychiatric beds and lack of early intervention provision. Over the past year I have noticed many news articles and reports on these subjects. But there is one thing I think they missed.

Yes there aren’t enough CAMHS inpatient beds, but there also aren’t enough staff to cover the ones we’ve got.

In both CAMHS inpatient units I have been to there have been serious problems with staffing. Friends of mine have confirmed experiencing the same problems in other units. There are often not enough regular staff who work on the ward on shift, so numbers have to be topped up with bank or agency staff. Sometimes these workers become regulars on the unit, thus getting to know patients. However a lot of the time they are coming on to the unit for the first time, know none of the patients and have very limited experience of the setting. In one of the CAMHS units I went to, which was a closed unit, patients used to use the ignorance of the agency staff to break the rules. One of the most notable examples I remember of this was a member of agency staff being persuaded by patients that the toaster could be plugged in in various bizarre places around the ward. This resulted in patients being found smoking in an ensuing after lighting cigarettes from the toaster. It’s funny but there are many other examples I could give ended with a patient getting hurt.

Having a team of regular staff covering a shift is vastly different to having numbers topped up by agency or bank. Funnily enough patients, often with complex past relationships with adults, tend not to open up to relative strangers. Though these workers count as bodies on the ward a lot of their work is observation and directing regular staff to the young people who need them.

If there were enough staff in each unit the quality of care and patient turnover would be much higher. The increased knowledge built up over time of patient’s case alone can make a huge difference to care. Bank and agency staff get a short handover about the ward and the patients however the information given is based on what has happened recently. Staff nurses and health care assistants who work on units regularly will build up the trust and the life story (often quite complicated) of a patient; thus helping them identify crisis triggers, early warning signs and risks.

The documentary did portray really well other points, such as how children and young people can be moved all over the country from hospital to hospital and how this is often a fast decision based on their condition fluctuating. I felt sorry for parents who had to deal with their child being passed around, sometimes hundreds of miles away from home. Dealing with relapse is hard enough but if it results in more moves and being further away from home it will be even more devistating for patients.

Some psychologists are campaigning for CAMHS services to cover up to the age of twenty five. I will probably write another blog about this soon as it is something I believe passionately in. The move from children to adult services is drastic and for many traumatic. The attitude appears to shift from CAMHS teaching you to cope with what you have to adult telling you to just deal with it. There is a huge difference.

A mother expressing her concerns over her daughter becoming institutionalised made me think of the many, many, young people I have met for whom moving from unit to unit has become a way of life. I have met patients who have been in hospital for years at a time. That is years of living away from home, years out of education and years without socialising with people who are mentally healthy. Who can blame these young people for becoming comforted by the safety and routine? Especially when many will have had bad experiences with outpatient care or have difficult home lives. These units are vital but there needs to be clear paths for patients to move on.

To sum up:

  • We need to staff the beds we have appropriately to improve the safety and the treatment of young inpatients. Then we need more beds.
  • Families should not have to wait for a young person to deteriorate in order for them to become an inpatient to get the treatment they need. Early intervention must improve.
  • Ideally every region should have some sort of provision for mentally ill young people.
  • Where possible young people should go directly to the most suitable security level provision to avoid more moving, and disrupting other patient’s care in lower security units.
  • Young people should be covered by children’s and a transitional service until the age of 25. The 18 – 25’s bracket could be used as a transitional stage between the two services and their massively different approaches.
  • There are so many things that need to change. 6% of the Mental Health budget is not enough to support the country’s mentally ill young people.