When I turned on BBC2 at 9pm this evening, I was apprehensive about watching Louis Theroux’s latest documentary venture.
A die-hard Theroux fan, and having watched and enjoyed almost all of his documentaries, I have particularly engaged with his most recent offerings. However, the second episode of his Altered States series, Choosing Death, left me feeling quite shaken up. A sufferer of mental illness myself, I felt the extremely sensitive nature of the subject was not handled sensitively enough, with no trigger warnings and very raw scenes.
So, when I began to watch Mothers on the Edge, I was anxious that it would be a similar experience. However, I was pleasantly surprised.
The documentary focuses on a specialised Mother and Baby Care Unit in London’s Bethlem Royal hospital, and looks at the stories of a handful of the women in there. As always, I was in awe of how empathetic and utterly disarming Theroux is, and how he ensures the spotlight is on the struggle of the mothers and their journey towards recovery. Theroux never seeks to impose a narrative, but rather to offer a supportive platform from which his contributors can open up.
One thing that was particularly striking was learning that some of the mothers had never previously experienced any issues with their mental health.
There is no doubt that the fact Theroux has three children himself allowed him to feel at ease with which he both interacts with the babies and speaks to the mothers. If one needed proof of the depth of understanding of others’ situations that Theroux is able to access, one mum said that his description of her issues was better than she could have given herself.
When the credits rolled, if you are left with one thought, it is of admiration for Theroux’s contribution to the hugely important conversation surrounding mental health, especially a lesser known phenomenon of mental illness during new motherhood.
Image credit: The Guardian