Living with Mental Illness

About "Living with Mental Illness"

Government statistics report that nearly 44 million adults experience mental illness in a given year. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 1 in every 5 adults experiences a mental illness.

WQED Multimedia's "Living With Mental Illness" campaign was launched in 2015 with support from Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield. The project explored mental illnesses including anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, and schizophrenia in a variety of platforms including a documentary, webisodes, web extras and other resources.

The project continues in 2016 by exploring "First Episode Psychosis" with support from the Staunton Farm Foundation. Watch for a new documentary on the topic in March 2017, with preview webisodes available on this site in the months leading up to the documentary.

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield


Bundle of Nerves: Our Anxiety Epidemic

A WQED Documentary

Bundle of Nerves: Our Anxiety Epidemic

Through personal stories of those affected, this documentary examines the causes, diagnosis, prevention and treatment. It also spotlights innovative initiatives that explore the issue in vulnerable populations, such as efforts to address anxiety disorders in college students and women. It will also explore co-occurrence with drug and alcohol dependency.

Premiered: December 3, 2015


These webisodes explore various mental illness topics through the personal stories of those affected, with helpful advice from experts in specific fields.


Schizophrenia is a severe developmental brain disorder that interferes with a person's ability to think clearly. While it affects only about 1% of the population, it is a traumatic illness for individuals and their families. In this report, Dr. Michael Rancurello from the Allegheny Health Network talks about the importance of early intervention. We also talk with local artist DJ Jackson, who explains how schizophrenia took over his life and what helps him stay on track.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive compulsive disorder affects about 2.2 million men and women in America ( Experts say it tends to be underdiagnosed and undertreated, mainly because it takes years for people to get help. In this story, Dr. Alicia Kaplan from the Allegheny Health Network explains the characteristics of OCD and the different treatment options available, while Squirrel Hill native Jordan Pearlman shares how the illness has affected his everyday life.


People often say they're feeling depressed. But major depression is a serious illness which affects millions of people of all ages and all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. During this conversation, Dr. Gary Swanson from the Allegheny Health Network explains the symptoms of major depression, while local school teacher Brenda Weingartner shares details of her long battle with the illness, including how she finally found relief.

Web Extras

In this series of web extras, experts speak on various issues surrounding mental illness.


Christine Michaels, Executive Director of NAMI Southwestern Pennsylvania talks in depth about the stigma often associated with mental illness.

Culture of Compassion

Christine Michaels talks in depth about the importance of compassion in dealing with diseases of the mind.

Mental Illness, Violence and Media

Christine Michaels speaks about NAMI's goal to separate mental illness and violence, a connection often made by the media.

Depression and Teenagers

Dr. Gary Swanson from the Allegheny Health Network explains how loved ones can differentiate normal behavior from signs of depression in two very different age groups: teenagers and the elderly.

Depression in Old Age

Dr. Gary Swanson from the Allegheny Health Network explains how loved ones can differentiate normal behavior from signs of depression in two very different age groups: teenagers and the elderly.

Mental Health and College Students

Treating anxiety has become an enormous challenge for college mental health experts. In this web extra, learn more about factors that contribute to mental health issues in college students and discover steps to help young people ease their anxieties and manage common pressures.

Mindful Exhibit

Using artists to get the conversation going on mental illness - that's the idea behind a unique exhibit on display at the Society of Contemporary Craft in the Strip District. The exhibit is calledMindful: Exploring Mental Health Through Art, and Executive Director Janet McCall says the pieces are meant to start the discussion about mental health in a safe and open environment.


  • Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S. (13.6 million or 4.1%) experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.
  • Approximately 1 in 5 youth between the ages of 13 - 18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children ages 8 - 15, the estimate is 13%.Among the 20.7 million adults in the U.S. who experienced a substance use disorder, 40.7% (8.4 million adults) had a co-occurring mental illness.
  • An estimated 26% of homeless adults staying in shelters live with serious mental illness and an estimated 46% live with severe mental illness and/or substance use disorders.
  • Approximately 20% of state prisoners and 21% of local jail prisoners have "a recent history" of a mental health condition.

These statistics come from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Learn More

Thank You

WQED Special Projects like Living with Mental Illness are made possible by the generous support of our members.

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