Since the beginning of recorded history, people have been searching for clues about mysterious behaviors. Are they evil or illness? A curse from the gods?

Mysteries of Mental Illness, a GBH multiplatform initiative launching this month, explores mental illness in science and society. A four-hour broadcast series, digital short films and community-based activities will track this complex topic from its earliest days to present times.

Nearly 20 percent of Americans suffer from a mental illness at some point in their lives.

“A diagnosis of a mental disorder carries a stigma that a heart condition or other physical ailment doesn’t, in large part because mental illness is poorly understood and has been for so long,” says GBH Studio Six Senior Executive in Charge Denise DiIanni.

“This stigma creates a critical barrier to treatment.”

The series looks at the ways mental health is understood and treated in marginalized communities and elevates the voices of people and practitioners from various cultures, backgrounds and ethnicities.

“We were very committed to making sure that our characters as well as our on-camera experts reflect the diversity of America,” says DiIanni.

GBH WORLD has produced a companion series of 20 video shorts, Decolonizing Mental Health, that explore how mental illness, and the healthcare industry surrounding it, impacts communities of color.

“Historically, marginalized communities have been treated differently because of racial disparities, racism, language barriers or religious barriers,” says Chris Hastings, GBH WORLD executive producer.

“The videos feature practitioners in these communities who are reframing mental health treatment for people who come from diverse cultures and backgrounds.”

DiIanni’s hope is that the series makes headway against the persistent stigma.

“Knowledge is power. If we can tell the right stories and reach audiences where they are, we can help reduce stigma,” she says. “Journalism and documentaries are about shedding light — which can lead to compassion. That will help fight the stigma.”

The film is produced by GBH Studio Six, GBH’s in-house production unit, and Peter Yost and Edna Albuquerque of Pangloss Films.

Explore the website here.

The broadcast premieres on June 22 at 9pm on GBH 2.