A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this medical drama explores a wide variety of mental illness. Its approach is nonjudgmental and informative, but some of the subject matter -- and the effects used to highlight patients' delusions -- may upset some viewers. The main character sometimes uses far-fetched and/or illegal tactics to help patients; characters are also involved in soap opera-esque storylines involving romance, friendship, and infidelity. There are discussions related to alcohol and drug abuse, but most actual drinking is done by adults in a limited social context. Expect some salty language of the "hell" and "damn" variety.
What's the story?
MENTAL follows psychiatrist Jack Gallagher (Chris Vance) in his new position as the director of Psychiatric Services at Los Angeles' Wharton Memorial Hospital. While searching for creative ways to help people dealing with a wide array of syndromes, the dedicated doc often finds himself at odds with his boss, hospital administrator/former flame Nora Skoff (Annabella Sciorra). And then there's the drama brought on by his colleagues -- including resentful Drs. Veronica Hayden-Jones (Jacqueline McKenzie) and Carl Belle (Derek Webster) -- and the younger medical professionals who need mentoring, like nurse Malcolm D. Washington (Edwin Hodge) and residents Arturo Suarez (Nicholas Gonzalez) and Chloe Artis (Marisa Ramirez). As he strives to help his patients, inspire his staff, and deal with annoying administrative responsibilities, the quirky Gallagher also quietly holds on to the hope that he'll somehow find his mentally ill sister.
Is it any good?
Mental demystifies mental illness by showing it through the eyes of both the doctors and the patients. It explores the featured disorders in a way that's informative and revealing rather than tragic or sinister. It also highlights the existing tensions in the medical community, which is still full of conflict about the appropriate way to treat patients who suffer from these kinds of afflictions and help them reclaim their lives.
Although the show is open-minded and compassionate, it relies on some so-so dramatics to keep the stories going. Some of Gallagher's treatment tactics are a little far-fetched, and some of the special effects meant to help viewers "see" patients' delusions are a bit over-the-top. And like most medical dramas, Mental intertwines the patients' stories with the staff's romantic and personal relationships. Still, in the end, Mental offers thoughtful -- if not thought-provoking -- entertainment.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the media depicts the mentally ill. Why are people with mental illnesses often shown on TV shows or in movies as being funny or violent? Do shows like this one contradict these stereotypes or reinforce them? Families can also discuss how societies have looked at mental illness over the centuries. Did you know that in some cultures, people who suffered from illness-related delusions were often seen as god-like creatures, while other cultures burned people with mental illnesses as witches? How does historic context impact the way we think about the mentally ill today?
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