WATCH: ‘Bedlam’ Explores Mental Health and Criminal Justice

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Mar 09, 2020

When a mental health crisis intersects with criminal justice, it could look a lot like the new documentary “Bedlam,” which examines both issues through the lens of those who enter and exit emergency rooms, homeless camps, and jails in Los Angeles. Produced by Independent Lens and directed by psychiatrist and documentarian Kenneth Paul Rosenberg, “Bedlam,” premiering on PBS on April 13, makes the politics of mental health personal.

According to the documentary’s press release, one in five adults or more than 40 million Americans have a mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression or schizophrenia. The film spotlights three who suffer from a chronic lack of support while including stories from the filmmaker’s late sister Merle, who lost her battle with schizophrenia because of this systemic failure. With interviews from experts and activists, including Black Lives Matter founder Patrisse Cullors, as well as people who live with a mental illness and their families, “Bedlam” uses historical footage and commentary to explore the trajectory of the treatment of mental illness in this country and what more is needed to right the system.

“I made this film because I felt like there is something to learn from both my family’s story and the firsthand accounts of those who live with mental illness and are victims of this vicious cycle of insufficient treatment,” said Rosenberg“I wanted to understand my sister and what she went through every day while living with schizophrenia, but most importantly, I wanted to make a film that acts as a call to action for better treatment of the mentally ill. Our public broadcast on Independent Lens is a fitting platform to sound this call to communities all over the U.S.”

“Bedlam” hopes to foster conversation through Independent Lens’ pop-up screening series. Watch the trailer above, and the documentary, which premieres on PBS’ Independent Lens on April 13.