26 Sep 2016

Channel 4 today reveals further details of its groundbreaking series Tavistock (w/t), which will explore the treatment of complex issues in the nation’s children and young people through exclusive access to one of England’s leading mental health trusts.

The three part series, made by the award-winning Century Films, will air later this year and will examine the work of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust by focusing on three areas of their extensive work.

The Tavistock’s Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) is the only NHS-funded service in the UK for children.

The first film explores the difficult decisions faced by children when they feel like they’ve been born into the wrong gender, or don’t fit into the neat definitions dictated by society. While gender dysphoria is not a mental illness, it presents a whole manner of related developmental and identity issues.

For most living like this can be unbearable. It can lead to distress, suicidal desires, and frightened and desperate parents. And there are no easy solutions – potentially life-changing decisions about transitioning into your chosen gender at a young age, and the medical interventions that follow, are very complicated.

The clinic has seen a 100% increase in referrals in the last year. Directed by the BAFTA- winning Peter Beard (My Son the Jihadi) this episode will follow the daily lives of two transgender children, their families and their treatment by GIDS staff.

The second film is set in Gloucester House, the Tavistock’s NHS-funded primary school for children with complex emotional and mental health difficulties, who exhibit some of the most challenging behaviours in the country. Head Teacher Nell Nicholson leads a specialist team that ranges from teachers to Child Psychotherapists. Nearly all of the 19 pupils, aged 6-12, have faced early trauma. For some that can be neglect and abuse, for others it can be bereavement.

The school operates on the basis that reliving and working through these early traumas allows these children to move on. But this approach can be challenging, when many of the children can’t last for more than a few minutes without a violent or abusive outburst. The film will follow the work of the staff of this unique school as they educate and treat their pupils and prepare them, where possible, for reintegration into mainstream secondary education. The film is also directed by Peter Beard.

A worrying trend in the UK has been reported by A&Es who have seen a surge in the number of teenage girls being admitted for self-harm. 1 in 3 British teenage girls are showing symptoms of anxiety or depression and the Tavistock itself has seen a rise in numbers of complex cases of self-harming in this demographic. The final film follows two of these cases in detail and the Tavistock’s attempt to tackle the issue locally as they set up a new ‘crisis service’ with a team of community mental health workers. This film is directed by Tim Lawton.

The series is produced by Century Films, commissioned by Amy Flanagan and Executive Produced by Liesel Evans.

Liesel Evans, Century Films:

“It has been a real privilege to work with the patients, their families and the staff at the Tavistock and Portman over the past few years. Across all the films, we take a raw and unflinching look at what it is like to live with mental health and identity issues at a young age. The series paints an honest and resonating picture as young lives transform through the process of receiving treatment. And all this at a time when there are increasing numbers of children and young people presenting with issues, and services across the country are facing dramatic cuts.”

Paul Jenkins, Chief Executive, Tavistock:

“We’ve been working with the documentary markers, Century Films, for several years to make a sensitive, thoughtful documentary which explores how we deliver our essential services. The series aims to challenge stigma and promote public awareness and better understanding of mental health and identity issues. We hope it will touch young people and families who are experiencing similar issues, or may need help.”

Amy Flanagan, Commissioner for Channel 4:

“The series gives an insightful look at the patients, families and staff of the Tavistock and will no doubt raise deserved awareness for the complex work that goes on in the treatment of mental health issues for a growing number of young people, which is one of the most important challenges facing the NHS.”

For more information about the Tavistock and Portman Trust please visit:

https://tavistockandportman.nhs.uk/ (opens in a new window)

http://www.gloucesterhouse.net/ (opens in a new window)