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QPTV Presents: Understanding Mental Illness “What Is Mental Illness?” took first place honors in the Diversity Empowerment category.
This is the first in a series of programs produced to encourage a better understanding of mental illness. Often using schizophrenia as an example, this program explores what we now know may be some of the causes of mental illness, the latest treatments, and the future of care for the mentally ill.

QPTV Presents: Understanding Mental Illness “Community Based Treatment” tied for first place in the Science, Health and Spirituality category.
This program, part of a series about mental illness, explores how modern therapies and medications can enable people to remain at home, with family and friends nearby, as they journey toward recovery. For too long, people feared that a diagnosis of mental illness meant a life sentence in an institution. Today, community based treatment offers an effective alternative to hospitalization for many who suffer from a mental illness.

This episode follows two recovering patients at Creedmoor as they struggle with serious mental illness and prepare to transition back into their communities. Their efforts help them regain the self respect which results from doing productive work as they learn valuable skills while employed in the "Big Nosh" program.

Occasionally, mental illness results in unfortunate consequences. Journeys introduces us to several patients in varying stages of recovery from serious mental disorders. We also explore the unique Living Museum, an "asylum" for artists who have some unique stories and backgrounds. Dr. Janos Marton explains his thinking on how to combat the self-stigmatizing which often accompanies mental illness.

Transitions explains the processes which enable patients and clients to rejoin their communities. Evaluation of their readiness is a team effort, and so is the creation of a plan for continued support, housing, and medical care as they move toward independence. Programs such as those at Transitional Services of New York provide the scaffolding for their new lives. Erin, a previous patient, re-visits Creedmoor and reflects on her past, her present occupation as Peer Bridger to other patients, and the future after her recent marriage.

Mental illness can strike anyone at any age. This program concerns itself with typical onsets and the related issues for various population groups. Young children may need help dealing with loss and grief. Pre-teens and teens today are at an increased risk of self-destructive behaviors. The extraordinary physical changes that occur as a woman brings a child into the world can also have an effect on mental well-being. Military personnel and others may suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The aging face possible dementia and depression but an older treatment, now improved, offers help.

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Making of...

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We all know mental illness is out there. An estimated one in four adults will suffer a mental disorder in their lifetime. Modern medications,treatments, and therapies, however, can mean that a diagnosis is no longer a life sentence. Experts agree that early diagnosis and treatment produces the best outcomes, yet people wait far too long before seeking help. Why?

In response to public concern about mental illness rates and the state of mental health care, QPTV has produced a new series of programs entitled “Understanding Mental Illness.”

According to Sandra Delson, QPTV’s Program Committee Chair and Board Member, “Our recent prize winning series on health care made it apparent that we had to have a separate series on Mental Health. It is a major issue which does not receive the attention and support it deserves and needs.” 

The goal of this series is to promote a greater understanding of the problems created by the presence of mental illness in today’s society.
“Our mission is to educate communities about mental health and the many programs and plans that can be used to assist those with mental illnesses back to a world of family and work,” Ms. Delson adds.

QPTV Director/Producer John Collins spent over a year researching, planning, shooting, and editing the six-part series, conducting more than 50 interviews. Locations included Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, Zucker Hillside Hospital, Transitional Services of New York, Pride of Judea Community Services, and Clinic Nueva Esperanza.
“Putting together a series like this is obviously a team effort and that effort started sometime ago,” Mr. Collins pointed out. “There were headlines then - as there are headlines today -linking terrible tragedies with people suffering from mental illness. We've become used to expecting the phrase ‘had a history of mental illness’ in our news reports. But the mentally ill are far more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators. And those who make the headlines have slipped through the safety nets of an overburdened mental health system, are off their
medications, out of treatment - often in combination with substance abuse.

“In these programs, we argue that mental illness is just a disease, like any other disease,” he continues. “We also hope to fight the stigma, shame and fear which too often surround mental illness and stop people from seeking help and receiving proper care and support.”

After the series proposal was quickly approved by QPTV’s Program Committee and Board of Directors, work on the project began. QPTV President Daniel J. Leone convened focus groups with Ms. Delson and Mr. Collins to help refine the message and gather insights from experts in the field. “We then contacted major mental health facilities and programs in Queens to obtain their permission and cooperation to videotape on their sites with full attention to the protocols, security issues, and privacy needs of individuals involved,” Mr. Leone states.
“With the ‘progression of care’ as the model for our episodes, we handpicked our crew and taping began.”
Shooting a documentary on a sensitive topic and filming sensitive subjects can become a learning experience. “We definitely learned from some of our experiences,” Mr. Collins conceded. “But with the help of some terrific liaisons at the institutions involved, we persevered and at the end of principal photography we had well over 120 hours of footage. The challenge then was to find the 2 hours and 51 minutes of story in there (the air time of the six episodes) to effectively communicate our goals to our audience. It is my hope that we have met that challenge.”

Mr. Leone added a final caution, “Several of the experts interviewed advised that anyone who is worried that they are experiencing symptoms of a mental illness or who knows someone who might be experiencing symptoms to seek help as early as possible. Today, many forms of mental illness can be treated effectively, but the earlier the intervention, the better the prognosis is for recovery. As with many other diseases, people who suffer from mental illness must receive appropriate diagnosis and medication, continue their treatments, and commit to working toward their recovery.”