Through interviews with renowned mental health professionals including Gabor Mate, MD, Robert Whitaker, and Roshi Joan Halifax, PhD, Phil explores the growing severity of the mental health crisis in America dominated by biomedical psychiatry. He discovers a growing movement of professionals and psychiatric survivors who demand alternative treatments that focus on recovery, nurturing social connections, and finding meaning.
Beyond that description, the film describes how our current interpretive frame for "mental illness" is deeply problematic. For one, the medicalization of mental health precludes political activism or diagnosing social trends as significant factors impacting people's psyche.
If we examine mental health as a response to a social order that is increasingly de-humanzing and technocratic, new vistas of "treatment" emerge. These include, alternartives which often take the form of communites of care, listening, factiliating deeper meaning of crises as potentially transformative experiences. Much of this falls under what has traditionally been described as "spirituality". That does not mean to support quackery or superstition but it does mean to recognize that to "recover" means to find something deeply human; namely belonging, meaning, and purpose.
These are created through vital relationships and the bonds of connection we find in shared spritual communities. And the development of these bonds, that is the development of what it is to be human is an important political aspiration.
Ivan Illich wrote in Tools for Conviviality that
Society can be destroyed when further growth of mass production renders the milieu hostile, when it extinguishes the free use of the natural abilities of society's members, when it isolates people from each other and locks them into a man-made shell, when it undermines the texture of community by promoting extreme social polarization and splintering specialization, or when cancerous acceleration enforces social change at a rate that rules out legal, cultural, and political precedents as formal guidelines to present behavior. Corporate endeavors which thus threaten society cannot be tolerated. At this point it becomes irrelevant whether an enterprise is nominally owned by individuals, corporations, or the slate, because no form of management can make such fundamental destruction serve a social purpose.
This same sentiment is echoed by many critics of institutionalized mental health and many are on display in this documentary. The documentary provides a good springboard into a different perspective on mental health which is as important now as when it was created.
As a related aside, the documentary was made without appeal to any corporate funding. It was directly funded through individual crowd sourcing appeal. From production to prescription of how to move forward, the orientation is deeply grassroots.