Seeing and discussing mental health
Review: The Me You Don’t See, Apple TV
While some may criticise the Oprah Winfrey/Prince Harry (the Duke of Sussex) documentary The Me You Don’t See that premiered on Apple TV on May 21 for using their celebrity to highlight mental health and it’s exacerbation post pandemic, one thing you can’t do is minimise the storytelling and lived experience of those telling their stories.
Throughout its five episodes, there are people you will recognise and those you won’t, but they all reveal with great vulnerability their mental health journeys and how it has impacted their lives.
As one of the many subjects interviewed over the five part doco-series, Lady Gaga opens up about her long term suffering and PTSD and self-harm as a result of sexual assault as a young adult.
As she explains “I don’t tell this story for my own self service, because to be honest it’s hard to tell and I feel a lot of shame about it. How do I explain to people that I have money, privilege and power that I’m miserable. I’m not here to tell the story for you to cry for me. I’m good. But open your heart up for somebody else. People need help, that’s part of my healing, being able to talk to you.”
Prince Harry’s struggles began with the death of his mother. He reveals candidly, that it is only in the last four years he has sought therapists help to unravel his complex upbringing and how being in the public eye his entire life has impacted his mental well-being.
Over and over throughout the series, storytelling lets us see into the lives of those who have struggled with public and private life. But more than that, the honesty and vulnerability and courage to speak up, makes this required viewing.
These stories help us understand that mental illness isn’t something to be ashamed of. Even high profile celebrities aren’t immune to the crippling effects of OCD, depression, self-harm and the many other ways mental health affects individuals.
While some of the insights will be shocking, it’s important to note that silence isn’t the answer. In the documentary Prince Harry describes how his wife Meghan Markle, didn’t act on the suicidal ideations she had during her pregnancy with their son, Archie, because she was afraid of hurting him.
“The thing that stopped her from seeing it through was how unfair it would be on me after everything that had happened to my mum and to now be put in a position of losing another woman in my life, with a baby inside of her, our baby,” he said. “The scariest thing for her was her clarity of thought. She hadn’t ‘lost it.’ She wasn’t crazy. She wasn’t self-medicating, be it through pills or through alcohol. She was absolutely sober. She was completely sane. Yet in the quiet of night, these thoughts woke her up.”
“Meghan was struggling,” he said. “People have seen the photograph of us, you know, squeezing each other’s hands as we walked into the Royal Albert Hall in London for a charity event. She was 6 months pregnant at the time. What perhaps people don’t understand is, earlier that evening, Meghan decided to share with me the suicidal thoughts and the practicalities of how she was going to end her life.”
Prince Harry goes on to admit that because of his upbringing he didn’t know how to help Megan with the state of her mental health.
“I’m somewhat ashamed of the way that I dealt with it,” he said. “And of course, because of the system that we were in and the responsibilities and the duties that we had, we had a quick cuddle, and then we had to get changed and had to jump in a convoy with a police escort and drive to the Royal Albert Hall for a charity event and then step out into a wall of cameras and pretend as though everything’s OK.
“There wasn’t an option to say, ‘You know what? Tonight we’re not going to go.’ Because just imagine the stories that come from that.”
In other episodes Zac Williams, the son of Robin Williams, discusses the generational impact of mental health and his journey to transform his life.
The five episodes are narrated by mental health professionals. The series also covers a lot of ground in discussing treatment and although critics have called the show a PR exercise, if one person seeks help from a professional after viewing the show that means it has achieved its goal to empower and educate.
Listening and understanding after all, are the keys for those suffering with mental health, and this is something that The Me You Don’t See does masterfully well.
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