Channel 4 is to broadcast a season of prime time programmes designed to challenge perceptions of mental health and discrimination.
At the heart of the 4 Goes Mad season will sit an as-yet untitled two-part production that “will feature a cast of eight dynamic employees - some of whom have a mental health condition - who are out to prove the stereotypes wrong”.
The participants will take part in a number of challenges with a panel of prestigious employers deciding who they think is the most employable, based purely on their ability. A psychiatrist and psychologist will be on hand to guide the viewer through “the maze of mental health conditions”.
Channel 4 viewers will also see the eight participants appear “undercover” on some of the broadcaster’s most popular shows in the week before the programme – and footage from these appearances will be used in the main show.
Factual Commissioning Editor Lina Prestwood, who is overseeing the season, said: “This is a lively and entertaining format that will encourage viewers to see the person rather than the diagnosis.
"We're confident that the individuals who do have a mental health problem will be indistinguishable from other contributors as they appear across the schedule and that their appearance in this series will defy deeply-ingrained assumptions about people with mental health-problems - particularly relating to their ability to work."
Comedians Ruby Wax and Jon Richardson have also made programmes to accompany the 4 Goes Mad season, which Channel 4 has developed working closely with mental health charities including the Mental Health Foundation and Time to Change.
Wax, who herself suffers from depression, will present Ruby Wax’s Mad Confessions, a one-off hour-long documentary following a number of successful business people as they disclose mental health conditions to their employers, family and friends.
Jon Richardson: A Little Bit OCD will see the comedian explore the world of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, meeting people who live with the condition and assessing his own tendencies towards OCD.
Sue Baker, Director of Time to Change, England's national mental health anti-stigma programme run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, said: "It's encouraging to see a major broadcaster tackle this deep-seated taboo. We realise that, at its heart, this is an entertainment season but we hope it will turn the spotlight onto a subject that desperately needs to be de-mystified and open it up to a much wider audience."
Channel 4 is to launch a dedicated website to accompany the season, offering additional information about mental health conditions, and interactive elements to help engage the audience.