Struggles Parents/Family Face In Powerful Documentary About Mental Illness Will Be Shown On PBS – But Only If You Call! Do it!

That Way Madness Lies… joins PBS Platform April 5th from Sandra Luckow on Vimeo.

(3-22-21) Imagine calling Oregon State Hospital  because the police told you they took your brother there.

 “I am wanting to get in touch with his case worker.”

A case worker, who doesn’t identify himself, comes on the line.

My brother is in the hospital and I was wondering if I can find out some information about him.”

“Sorry, due to confidentiality laws I can’t tell you whether he is here or not.”

I definitely know he is there because the police just told me that they took him to the hospital. I can at least provide information -“

The case worker cuts you off.

“Yeah, I couldn’t do that without telling you whether he is here or not. But you could do that in a letter form. Of course, you can write a letter to anyone. You can write it to the doctor who is in charge of whoever the person is who might be here.”

He hangs up.

Thus begins Sandra Luckow’s powerful documentary “That Way Madness Lies...

I first wrote about this important documentary in 2017 and now PBS and a division that offers stations programs to customize their schedules has agreed to make it available – but only if each station gets phone calls and emails requesting them to show it. That’s how it works. Otherwise, Sandra must hire a promoter for $10,000 to contact each station to push for showing it – a huge cost for a labor of advocacy. If you belong to a local NAMI or MHA group, you can contact your local station and request a showing.

Also, the film will be available starting April 5th on the PBS streaming service for a short period and then only available free to PBS members.

Please help promote this documentary. It gives readers an unvarnished portrait of what many of us have faced – an adult son who is convinced that he doesn’t need your advice and the bureaucratic hurdles you face navigating a system that is non-responsive.

The documentary focuses on Sandra’s brother, Duanne, who contributed to the film by taping himself on his cell phone when he first became ill to collect evidence of how he was being “persecuted.” 

The documentary covers seven years of his life. When we first meet Duanne, he owns a house and is a skillful restorer of rare automobiles, highly respected for his OCD-like insistence on perfection and dogged work ethic.

But as with so many artistic individuals who become seriously mental illness, Duanne begins to fall into an abyss before viewers’ eyes.


During one delusional moment, he prepares a tent bedroom outside his house for Jessica, a woman whom he met on the Internet and who he has been sending money to in Russia. He assures us that she simply missed her flight to join him but will be arriving shortly. She never does. Next, we listen to Duanne ranting about Pluto and the imagined wrongs of an insurance company while he stands at the ledge of Mulnomah Falls, peering over the railing at the ground some 611 feet below contemplating jumping.

We watch as his frustrated and befuddled parents and Sandra try to convince Duanne not to send money to a Nigerian  huckster who claims Duanne is due $10.5 in unclaimed death benefits. Duanne sells his nationally recognized restoration of a 1964 Turbo Charged Corvair to raise money and by the time, Sandra gets involved, Duanne has paid $40,000 to the Internet scammer.

There are others who are eager in to pick his financial bones, but it’s not only Internet crooks who prey on him.

After Duanne is forced against his will into the Oregon State Hospital for an extended stay, he is sent a bill for $117,895.11 for mental health services that he did not seek and refused to accept. The hospital simply found out that he had assets.

Duanne eventually loses everything: his house, his business, his savings, and in the process, he becomes alienated from his parents and sister, all of whom have tried to prevent him from slipping further and further down the rabbit hole. In doing so, they have become the enemy and they pay for it heavily, eventually having to obtain restraining orders to protect themselves.

Alone, broke and continuing to believe there is nothing wrong with him, Duanne gets stuck in the revolving door of homelessness, hopelessness and jail.

As the documentary progresses, Sandra skillfully and subtly spins the narrative away from Duanne and onto herself, her family and our mental health system’s failure to help her brother. 

Like many of us, she turns her frustration and anger into advocacy by describing to producers at 60 Minutes how she and her family are being threatened by Duanne. Yet, those threats are not enough to get him hospitalized.  Having “an AR 15 with hollow point bullets spattering (my) brains all over my apartment” does not constitute imminent danger. When she complains about cruel and threatening remarks that he posts on Facebook, its administers turn a blind eye. 

I will not disclose the ending of the film but will say that – unlike the fairy tale ending that Hollywood requires – Duanne’s struggles continue and Sandra’s love proves insufficient to health a brain disorder – just as devotion and love are no match for cancer or heart disease.

Her film shows viewers the horror that serious untreated mental illness inflicts without sugar-coating and it reveals the shackles that prevent families from interceding, the inability of our current mental health system to help the severely and persistently ill, and the modern day charlatans who preach that paranoid schizophrenia is not real, that all medicines are poisons, and that Americans who roam our streets psychotic are electing to live in a world that daily torments them.

The title of the film is from King Lear, Act 3 Scene 4.  “What I like about it,” Sandra told me, “is the ambiguity despite its seeming certainty.  What I hope the audience comes away with is a question of  ‘Which way does madness lie?’  In our mentally ill?  In our treatment of our mentally ill?  In the constraints imposed upon by ineffective policies?”

Those are all good questions.

(If you wish to help Sandra hire a promoter, you can make a tax deductible donation here.

You can contact your local PBS station and ask that the film be aired here. 

You can learn more about the film, read Sandra’s blog about her journey or watch the original uncut version on iTunes and Amazon here. )

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.