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Ken Burns Film Looks at Youth Mental Illness

Ken Burns film Hiding in Plain Sight: Youth Mental Illness debuts on PBS June 27, with the second part on June 28. The four-hour film looks at 21 diverse youth, between the ages of 11 and 27, across America who are living with mental health challenges.  

Burns executive produced the project and Erik Ewers and Christopher Ewers directed. 

Also: New Ken Burns Mental Health Doc Gets Streaming Exposure 

“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,” according to PBS.  

“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 Erik and Christopher 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, 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.”

Hiding in Plain Sight is part of a public media mental health initiative called Well Beings.  

“We hope that this film will save lives,” said Burns. “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.”

Florentine Films, Ewers Brothers Productions and WETA Washington produced the film with John F. Wilson and Tom Chiodo exec producing for WETA. 

Burns’ documentaries include Country Music, Baseball and Hemingway. ■ 

Michael Malone
Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.