A Danger to Self or Others

  • Cook County Jail

“A Danger to Self or Others” portrays everyday life inside Cook County Jail’s Mental Health Division – the largest provider of mental health services in the United States. On any given day, there are 10,000 men and women held inside the Chicago jail, the largest of its kind in the United States.

An estimated 10%, or 1,000, are suffering from some form of mental illness. In many cases, it’s the first time their disease has been diagnosed. With fewer state mental hospitals and limited resources at the community level, jails have increasingly become a critical provider of mental health services throughout the country. The documentary leads listeners through various stages of treatment — from “Receiving” where the staff must perform a kind of triage and make an immediate psychiatric assessment; to the “Acute Care Unit” where the mental heath team has just a few days to stabilize detainees; to the “Residential Treatment Unit” which offers longer term individual and group therapy; and finally to the release process which tries to link released detainees with mental health resources on the outside. “A Danger to Self or Others” sheds light on an institution that has become a critical link in America’s vast and complicated matrix of mental health services. (Produced in 1999; description from the original broadcast.)

Winner: Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi award; Edward R. Murrow Award; National Mental Health Media Association’s Media Award; National Federation of Community Broadcasters’ Golden Reel Award.