We use cookies to improve your experience of our website. Cookies perform functions like recognising you each time you visit and delivering advertising messages that are relevant to you. Read more here

Life on the Psych Ward

Catch Up


This one-off documentary visits the Bethlem Royal Hospital, a secure psychiatric unit in south London. It’s the sort of programme that can easily slip into voyeurism – is it just a chance to gawp?

This film, however, strikes the right note, by focusing on three men who have each spent decades in secure institutions. They were judged too mentally ill to be in prison, but, unlike in prison, they don’t have a sentence to serve – they are released when doctors deem them able to function safely in society. Which may, of course, be never.

To some, locking up these violent offenders for life may seem the correct course of action. But it’s worth remembering what one doctor points out: “They didn’t come from a vacuum – they are products of our society too.”


London's Bethlem Royal Hospital is home to more than 100 patients, many of who have committed serious crimes but are considered too mentally disordered to be in prison. This documentary focuses on Tony, a paranoid schizophrenic and a history of violence, James, who is serving a life sentence for a violent stabbing in prison, and John, another lifer, who was found guilty of attempted murder. Cameras follow the three men coming to terms with the trauma they have caused as they take their first steps outside the hospital.

Cast & Crew

Director Guy King
Executive Producer Peter Dale
Producer Anna Stephens


Have Your Say What did you think of Life on the Psych Ward?

view all comments (0)