Wie die anderen chronicles the children’s psychiatry ward in the hospital in Tulln, Lower Austria. We see how doctors, therapists and nurses work with their patients, trying to make the best decisions for them when faced with moral dilemmas, tight budgeting, lack of personnel , parents (more and less willing and/or able to cooperate) and, of course, the children themselves (more or less willing and/or able to cooperate).
Wie die anderen was an interesting look at working with children and mental illness. Some of the concerns, I was already familiar with, but I can imagine that if you never worked with children (outside of the educatio system), a lot of it will be new to you. In any case Wulff provides us with a lot of insight in a rather unexcited manner.
I have some experience with the social system in Austria, but not really with the medical side of things, so for me it was most interesting to see the doctors’ team meetings where they discuss their cases and try to make their decisions about how to proceed. Those decisions range from the practical – Austria has not enough doctors and the budget for hospitals is tight, so a certain pragmatism is needed about what treatments are possible – to the moral – if you suspect that a child is being abused at home, do you immediately inform the authorities, risking that the child and the parents completely refuse to work with you anymore, or do you let the abuse continue for a while until you are in a position to deal with it a little more sensitively? And what kind of support system is there for the people who have to make these difficult decisions?
Wulff throws you into this microcosm without much introduction. The camera, and with it the audience, takes position as part of counceling sessions and therapy, as part of the team meetings as part of the night shifts, as part of the class room in the hospital. It always does so calmly, but with a lot of sympathy for the people involved – staff, patients and families alike. And just as we get thrown into the film in the middle of a therapy session, we go out of it with the introduction of a new case. The work isn’t done and it probably never will be.
Just before the film starts, there is a big disclaimer that everyone in the film gave their explicit consent to be filmed and to have the material used in the film. That is, of course, important, but the question remains whether it’s really enough. The patients are all minors who legally needed parental consent to be filmed (I hope they informally gave their personal consent as well), but what happens in 10, 15 years, when they’re grown up. Will they be unhappy that consent was given at the time of shooting?
Of course that is a question that we can ask of all participants in a documentary, but with mentally ill children it’s just extra sensitive since there is such a big stigma attached to mental illness. But Wulff tackles important issues in his documentary that should be addressed. And since they should be addressed, I’m glad that it was done in the film Wulff gave us that is always kind to the people, but not always kind to the institution they have to navigate.
Summarizing: Recommended watching.