Louis Theroux Exclusive: ‘There’s A Stigma Attached To Mental Health – People Still Don’t See It As A Real Illness’

'I think mental illnesses are poorly understood – not just by the public at large but even by the professionals.'

louis theroux interview

by Arianna Chatzidakis |
Updated on

Speaking at Festival of Marketing on World Mental Health Day, renowned film and documentary maker Louis Theroux shared some of his views on mental health with Grazia. The interview comes shortly after we delivered our Where's Your Head At? mental health petition to parliament.

Reflecting on some of the documentaries he's made in the past on the sensitive topic, such as 'America’s Medicated Kids which was about kids with psychiatric conditions and Talking To Anorexia about eating disorders', Theroux revealed that mental health is a topic that he's very interested in exploring, mainly because he believes it's 'poorly understood'.

'[Mental health] is a constant source of fascination, interest and curiosity for me,' he said. 'I think mental illnesses are poorly understood – not just by the public at large but even by the professionals.' Theroux continued, 'I think there’s so much about the brain that we still don’t really know. And there’s a stigma attached to [mental health], some people still don’t see it as a real illness. Also our techniques for alleviating mental illnesses are still very imperfect.'

louis theroux

Theroux's calming interview techniques almost definitely help him to cover the sensitive topic of mental health in his documentaries. By presenting himself as an approachable, understanding figure, Theroux is able to create a safe space for his interviewees. This in turn makes them feel comfortable enough to open up and share their personal experiences with him.

Speaking about his interview style, Theroux said, 'as time has gone on and I've done more stories on people who are vulnerable - and more stories about things like mental health - I've become aware that actually there's real value by creating what you call a safe space. It's not quite therapeutic practise, but it does bear some similarities with it, and you do very often get the best results in an interview by allowing people to relax and speak their minds.'

When asked if he would be exploring mental health as a future documentary topic, Theroux revealed: 'absolutely, I would be interested in doing something in the future about it.'

Louis Theroux's new documentary series Altered States will be available on BBC Two on November 4th.

Grazia are working on the Where’s Your Head At? campaign, to improve the mental health of the nation by ensuring employers look after the wellbeing of their workforce. We want to make it easy for you to talk about your mental health at work, by ensuring that there are trained colleagues on-site who know how to point you in the direction of any help you might need.

We need YOUR help to make it a legal requirement to have a trained mental health first aider in every workplace or college. Please sign our petition at wheresyourheadat.org and use the hashtag #WheresYourHeadAt to support the campaign.

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