Docs

WETA sets premiere for Ken Burns-produced doc on youth mental illness

Washington, D.C.-based public media station WETA has announced it will air Hiding in Plain Sight: Youth Mental Illness, a two-part documentary about the mental health crisis among U.S. youth, on PBS stations nationwide ...
March 3, 2022

Washington, D.C.-based public media station WETA has announced it will air Hiding in Plain Sight: Youth Mental Illness, a two-part documentary about the mental health crisis among U.S. youth, on PBS stations nationwide on June 27 and 28.

Ken Burns is an executive producer on the doc, which is directed by Erik Ewers and Christopher Loren Ewers and written by David Blistein. Julie Coffman is producer, with Susan Shumaker serving as a coproducer along with the directors and Blistein. The film is a coproduction of Florentine Films, Ewers Brothers Productions and WETA Washington, D.C., with John F. Wilson and Tom Chiodo executive producing the project for WETA.

Hiding in Plain Sight includes first-person accounts from more than 20 people, ranging in age from 11 to 27, who live with mental health conditions. The filmmakers also interview the subjects’ parents, teachers, friends and healthcare providers, as well as independent mental health experts, to create a portrait of how mental health challenges affect daily life.

Discussing issues of stigma, discrimination, awareness and silence, the doc aims to shift public perception of mental health issues.

“We interviewed a diverse group of courageous young people from across the country with a range of diagnoses who spoke openly with us, and shared intimate, and often painful, details of their mental health journeys,” said directors Erik Ewers and Christopher Loren Ewers in a news release.

“We hope that by bringing these experiences to a broadcast and online audience, our film will help shed light on how commonplace — how truly universal — mental health challenges are, and encourage other young people who are struggling to seek help. As the pandemic has made clear, caring for the mental health of kids, teenagers, and young adults is more vital than ever.”

The four-hour doc is part of Well Beings, a multi-year national public media campaign that aims to demystify and destigmatize physical and mental health through storytelling. The initiative encompasses feature-length documentaries, short-form digital content, user-generated storytelling, a digital and social media campaign, community events, and educational curriculum created by WETA with support from national and local partners.

“We hope that this film will save lives,” executive producer Ken Burns said in a release. “As a society, we continue to test the resiliency of youth without truly understanding how the stresses of today, including this unprecedented pandemic, are impacting them. Erik and Christopher and their team set out to listen and learn from America’s young people, documenting their experiences and allowing them to share how they are identifying new ways to address mental health challenges. It is a remarkable journey that captures the unique voices of these young people as they navigate an extraordinarily difficult era in our country’s history.”

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for HMV.com. As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.

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