Alexis is a college student from the Chippewa tribe in North Dakota.

Hiding in Plain Sight: Youth Mental Illness

Premiering Monday, June 27 and Tuesday, June 28 at 8 p.m.

Arizona PBS will be premiering a new, two-part documentary film on the nation’s ongoing youth mental health crisis Monday, June 27 and Tuesday, June 28 at 8 p.m. Presented by Ken Burns and created by filmmakers Erik Ewers and Christopher Loren Ewers, the two-part, four-hour film, called “Hiding in Plain Sight: Youth Mental Illness,” is part of Well Beings, a national campaign from public media to demystify and destigmatize our physical and mental health through storytelling.

Premiering on PBS stations nationwide next week, the project features first-person accounts from more than 20 young people, ranging in age from 11 to 27, who live with mental health conditions, as well as parents, teachers, friends, healthcare providers in their lives, and independent mental health experts. The film presents an unvarnished window into daily life with mental health challenges, from seemingly insurmountable obstacles to stories of hope and resilience. Through the experiences of these young people, the film confronts the issues of stigma, discrimination, awareness, and silence, and, in doing so, help advance a shift in the public perception of mental health issues today.

“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 and co-producers Erik Ewers and Christopher Loren Ewers. “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.”

“We hope that this film will save lives,” said executive producer Ken Burns. “As a society, we continue to test the resiliency of youth without truly understanding how the stresses of today are impacting them.”

“Hiding in Plain Sight: Youth Mental Illness” is a central part of Well Beings, the multi-year, multiplatform health campaign including other feature-length documentaries, short-form original digital content, user-generated storytelling, a digital and social media campaign, community events, and educational curriculum created by the Greater Washington Educational Telecommunications Association (WETA) with support from a broad coalition of national and local partners.

This spring, Arizona PBS was awarded a grant from WETA to support future community engagement activities related to the youth mental health crisis. More information about those efforts will be announced in the months to come.

“We’ve all seen how the pressures and uncertainties of our world continue to impact the youth in our communities,” said Arizona PBS General Manager Adrienne R. Fairwell. “I’m thankful that WETA, Ken Burns and Well Beings have collaborated to amplify such an important conversation nationally, and I’m pleased that we’ll be able to do the same here in Arizona next week with the film’s premiere and beyond with upcoming community engagement efforts.”

Those who wish to join the online conversation on youth mental health can do so by tagging @ArizonaPBS and @WellBeingsOrg and using #PlainSightPBS and #WellBeings on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. “Hiding in Plain Sight: Youth Mental Illness” will be available for streaming concurrent with broadcast on all station-branded PBS platforms, including PBS.org and the PBS Video app, available on iOS, Android, Roku streaming devices, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV, Chromecast and VIZIO. Arizona PBS members can view many series, documentaries and specials via PBS Passport.

For more information about “Hiding in Plain Sight” and related resources, click here.

The film includes the following individuals with lived experience of mental health challenges:

  • A teenager who surrenders to addiction at the age of 15
  • A young Native American woman who feels so isolated she contemplates suicide
  • A transgender teen who goes through periods of profound joylessness and substance abuse
  • A high school freshman whose childhood hallucinations intensify after a series of assaults
  • A 14-year-old boy who is plagued by intrusive thoughts and withdraws into his own world

About Well Beings

Well Beings launched in July 2020 with the Youth Mental Health Project, engaging youth voices to create a national conversation, raise awareness, address stigma and discrimination, and encourage compassion. Well Beings was created by WETA Washington, D.C., the flagship public media station in the nation’s capital, and brings together partners from across the country, including people with lived experience of health challenges, families, caregivers, educators, medical and mental health professionals, social service agencies, private foundations, filmmakers, corporations and media sponsors, to create awareness and resources for better health and well-being. Other featured Well Beings projects address rural health care, caregiving, survival of childhood cancer and more. 

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