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Customer Review

on 8 August 2010
First things first. I love Stephen Fry, and I have a severe depressive illness. Thought I'd declare that at the start - y'know, declare my interests. I thought this DVD would be both interesting and informative, but it left me feeling more than a little let down.

I watched the programmes when they were first shown by the BBC, and while I found them reasonable viewing, I got the sense that they were not particularly well researched and at times bordering on inaccurate. But I enjoyed watching Stephen none the less, and I found the inclusion of people who were successfully managing their condition quite reassuring. I particularly liked the inclusion of the surgeon with bipolar (though her advocation of using oily fish instead of meds was slightly alarming), and the beautiful girl who was studying creative writing - I also thought the general emphasis on reducing expectations and stress levels, was sensible.

Unfortunately there were several points where I just felt that sweeping statements were made (based on Stephen's opinions, and regarding serious areas such as ECT and medication), which were either missing detail or not related to facts/evidence. I think it just needed to be a little more careful with the details, and maybe the whole thing just needed a better structure to it (rather than just wandering aimlessly between different topics and people).

Overall, I think I'd give the films a rating of 3 stars out of 5... I've only dropped it down to 2 stars as there are also issues with quality of the DVD editing. I ordered this DVD about a week before the BBC re-showed the film as part of the Headroom season in 2010. When I received and watched the DVD, there were a couple of bits of the film that I thought were missing - so when it was shown on TV a couple of days later, I watched it, and there were several bits of conversations which had been edited out on the DVD version. I cannot understand why they did this, as the BBC were still showing the full version. Also, the edits on the DVD have been made very clumsily, so even if you hadn't watched the original version you'd still feel like they'd cut random chunks out of it.

Within 12 hours of buying this DVD, I had put it back up for sale on Amazon (I very nearly made a profit).

If you're a student hoping to use it as research, there is absolutely nothing you will learn from this DVD (unless you're a media student writing about the careless/exploitative treatment of mental illness by TV shows - in which case I recommend you just order it from your college library).

If you've got bipolar/unipolar/whatever, and you want to hear other people's experiences of mental illness, I recommend you read/listen to a good solid memoir. My favorite (partly for its length, partly for its accurate depiction/style) is probably Darkness Visible by William Styron. Or maybe watch/read An Angel At My Table.

Overall, not good. Sorry Stephen.
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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