MENTAL is a documentary that observes the complex world of an
outpatient mental health clinic Chorale Okayama in Japan, interwoven
with patients, doctors, staff, volunteers, and home-helpers.
People with various mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar
disorder, eating disorders, panic disorder, and personality disorder
visit Chorale Okayama to see Dr. Masatomo Yamamoto. They are men and
women of all ages, with diverse backgrounds and various attitudes to
their own illnesses.
There is an elite businessman who worked too hard
and was diagnosed with "burn-out syndrome." There is a woman
who has suffered from an eating disorder since somebody said to her
that her legs were too fat. There is a mother who ended up
killing her own newborn baby. Because of their illnesses,
some attempt suicide repeatedly, and others actually kill
themselves (As of today, two of the patients in the film have
committed suicide). Some have been dealing with their illnesses for
decades, and have developed their own philosophy, religious faith, or
artistic expressions. Some hide their illnesses even from their
family members and friends, while others give lectures to reduce
prejudice and misunderstanding about mental illness.
When Dr. Masatomo Yamamoto, founder and director of Chorale Okayama,
worked for a mental hospital, he questioned why the locks installed
on the doors of the wards could only be unlocked from the outside.
"These locks are not for patients but for doctors and staff," he
thought. Then, he became a pioneer in the movement to get rid of
locks from psychiatric wards. At Chorale Okayama, he tries to support
patients so that they will be able to live in society, not locked up
in hospitals. He created two kinds of workplaces for patients:
Pastel, a milk-delivery service company, and Mini-Chorale, a small
However, the situation surrounding mental health care in Japan is not
so forgiving. Suffering from budget deficits, national and local
governments are cutting costs, grants, and services toward mental
patients and institutions.
MENTAL depicts various aspects and problems of mental health, showing
such scenes as consultations and treatments of patients by Dr.
Yamamoto, education of nurses, waiting rooms filled with patients,
staff members negotiating with government agencies to maintain
services, activities at Pastel and Mini-Chorale, and home helpers
supporting patients living at home. It also depicts the daily lives
and candid faces of patients, revealing their philosophy, sufferings,
anxiety, and joy.