How Mad Are You? (2008): Part 01


“How Mad Are You?” is a two-part 2008 BBC Horizon/Discovery Channel Co-Production produced and directed by Rob Liddell.

Part of the BBC’s Horizon documentary series.

The programme was recreated in 2018 by SBS for Australian TV.

Outline (UK Version)

Ten Britons spend a week together. Five have a history of mental illness. Five do not. The question is – Who’s Who?

The programme explores the relationship between character traits and mental illness and considers the social implications of inaccurate diagnosis of the latter. Ten volunteers, five of whom have been previously diagnosed with psychiatric disorders, are observed and interviewed by a panel of three mental health experts who then venture their diagnoses. The experts include a psychiatrist, a professor of clinical psychology, and a psychiatric nurse. The volunteers and experts have no prior knowledge about one another, and were brought together for this one week study.

The program was inspired by the 1972 “Rosenhan Experiment,” in which the American psychologist David Rosenhan and several associates feigned auditory hallucinations in order to have themselves admitted to psychiatric hospitals. Eight of these “pseudopatients” were diagnosed with psychiatric disorders. Although they ceased displaying any symptoms once admitted to a hospital, they were detained for between 17 and 52 days. None were recognised by hospital staff. The experiment’s results, published in Science in 1973,1 raised questions about the validity of psychiatric diagnosis.

You can read an in-depth overview of the programme by Yusef Progler in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences.

Part 01

First of a two-part special. Ten volunteers have come together for an extraordinary test. Five are ‘normal’ and the other five have been officially diagnosed as mentally ill. Horizon asks if you can tell who is who, and considers where the line between sanity and madness lies.

Part 02 here.

Outline (Australian Version)

Recreates the BBC UK version.

New two-part SBS documentary series How ‘Mad’ Are You? addresses mental illness in a way never seen before on Australian television. Ten Australians, from all backgrounds and ages spend a week together. Five have a history of mental illness. Five do not. Who is who?

  • This ground breaking two-part series will address the issue of mental illness in a way never seen before on Australian television.
  • Around one in five Australians experience mental illness every year. Despite the scale of the problem – the stigma remains.
  • Ten Australians with diverse backgrounds and from right across the country, have all agreed to take part in a bold and daring study in the hope of breaking down this stigma.
  • Five of them have been diagnosed as being mentally unwell, five have not; the question is – Who’s Who?
  • Over the next week, they will take part in a series of specially designed tests.
  • The group will be under the gaze of experts who face the daunting task of working out who has been diagnosed as mentally ill and who has not.
  • The experts are putting their professional reputations on the line, and the ten risk being labelled with a mental illness they don’t have. It is all in the name of breaking down stigma and exploring where the fine line between being ‘well’ and ‘mentally ill’ lies.
  • Each episode delves into the relationship between character traits and mental illness, and considers the social implications arising from the diagnosis of mental illness.
  • The series will explore major disorders including Clinical Depression, Social Anxiety Disorder, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Anorexia Nervosa.
  • The question of who is ‘mad’ and who is not goes to the core of how we see ourselves, and how we see others in Australia today.
  • Crucially the volunteers who take part are ultimately living proof that a history of mental illness does not have to define you or make you ‘other’ in today’s society.

Production & Filming Details

  • Narrator(s):
    • Judy Davis.
    • Paul McGann
  • Director(s):
    • Naomi Elkin-Jones … (2 episodes, 2018)
    • David Grusovin … (2 episodes, 2018)
    • Rob Liddell
  • Producer(s):
    • Darren Dale … producer (2 episodes, 2018)
    • Jacob Hickey … series producer (2 episodes, 2018)
    • Agnes Teek … story producer (2 episodes, 2018)
    • Rob Liddell
  • Writer(s):
    • Jacob Hickey … (2 episodes, 2018)
  • Music:
    • Angela Little … (2 episodes, 2018)
  • Cinematography:
    • Justin Brickle … (2 episodes, 2018)
    • Marden Dean … (2 episodes, 2018)
    • Daniel Gallagher … (2 episodes, 2018)
  • Editor(s):
    • Mark Atkin … (2 episodes, 2018)
  • Production:
    • Blackfella Films
  • Distributor(s):
    • BBC.
    • SBS.
  • Release Date:
    • UK: 11 and 18 November 2008.
    • Australia: 11 and 18 October 2018.
  • Running Time: 2 x 50 minutes.
  • Rating: Unknown.
  • Country: UK.
  • Language: English.

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