A Dangerous Son

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One in 10 American children suffer from serious emotional disturbance and more than 17 million have experienced a psychiatric disorder. A Dangerous Son focuses on three families in crisis, each struggling with a child’s severe mental illness while desperately seeking treatment in the face of limited resources and support; exposing cracks in a system that fails too many families, with potentially devastating consequences for the child or for others. The film is directed by Liz Garbus (Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt & Anderson Cooper, There’s Something Wrong with Aunt Diane).

A Dangerous Son highlights the cycle of counselor visits, medications, hospitalizations and encounters with law enforcement common to many children and families grappling with psychiatric disorders. The guilt and isolation parents feel can be overwhelming, as is the constant worry that their child may harm himself or herself, or others. And while treatment can greatly improve the outcome, appropriate care is often a luxury available only to those who can afford it, or who happen to live in states with free or affordable treatment. Highlighting the importance of encouraging dialogue and the importance of providing care to those in need, mental-health experts and advocates interviewed in the documentary include: Dr. Thomas Insel, former director of the National Institute of Mental Health; Andrew Solomon, author of Far From the Tree; Virginia state senator Creigh Deeds, whose 24-year-old son Gus stabbed him before killing himself; and Liza Long, author of the essay “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” who speaks about her own struggles dealing with her son’s mental health crises.

A Dangerous Son is produced and directed by Liz Garbus; produced by Ted Gesing; edited by Sari Gilman; director of photography Gabriel Miller; original music by Paul Brill and Elizabeth Ziman. For HBO: senior producer, Nancy Abraham; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.