Hiding in Plain Sight: Documenting the crisis in kids’ mental health



At 3 p.m. CST on May 25, AHCJ will offer a special webinar on an upcoming two-part film, produced by award-winning documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, on the crisis in children’s mental health.

The PBS film, “Hiding in Plain Sight: Youth Mental Illness,” is an intimate examination of a crisis that the American Academy of Pediatrics called a public health emergency in 2021. The documentary is anchored by the anguished voices of 20 young people, ages 11 to 27, who live with mental health conditions, as well as parents, teachers, friends, health care providers in their lives, along with mental health experts with deep knowledge of youth mental health.

What makes the film required viewing for health care reporters is its unusually frank and direct discussion of mental health among young people, whose voices aren’t often heard in reporting on this topic. They talk about the stigma of mental illness, how they hid their challenges and how their own personal crises unfolded. The result is a film that should advance the public’s understanding and awareness of the crisis and what can be done to help young people.

Scheduled to air on PBS stations on June 27 and June 28, the films were directed by brothers Erik and Christopher Loren Ewers, longtime members of the Ken Burns team and award-winning filmmakers in their own right. They will join AHCJ core topic leader for mental and behavioral health Katti Gray for a webinar discussion about how they gained the trust and confidence of their film subjects. Two of the young people profiled in the film, Collin Cord and Makalynn Powell, will join the discussion. The webinar audience will also see a short, sneak preview of the film.

View the webcast

Erik Ewers

Christopher Loren Ewers

Collin Cord

Makalynn Powell

Katti Gray


About the filmmakers:

Erik Ewers
Co-Director and Editor

Erik Ewers has worked with documentary filmmaker Ken Burns for more than 30 years, including nearly all of his single and multi-episodic films. He serves as Ken’s senior editor and as co-director and editor of Ewers Brothers Productions, a preferred collaborative company in the co-creation of Ken’s films.

Erik has been nominated for more than seven personal and program Emmy Awards and has won one editing Emmy and three program Emmys, as well as two prestigious ACE Eddie Award nominations and one ACE win for “Best Edited Documentary of 2015.” Erik is an expert in all aspects of filmmaking, having served as music producer, writer, director, film producer, picture editor, and sound effects, music, and dialogue editor.

In 2015, Erik collaborated with Ken to create the two-hour PBS film The Mayo Clinic: Faith, Hope, Science, serving as producer, director and editor. Their partnership continues in an upcoming miniseries on America’s mental health crisis.

Christopher Loren Ewers
Co-Director and Director of Photography

Christopher Loren Ewers has been working behind the camera for over 20 years. He studied cinematography at Boston University and photojournalism at the New England School of Photography, and has traveled the world exploring the human experience through the lens. His eclectic work includes a variety of subjects, formats and collaborators, from national networks like NBC and PBS to Fortune 500 brands like Apple, Coca-Cola, and IBM and to nonprofit organizations like the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Clinton Global Initiative.

However, it’s the unique mix of Chris’s film and journalism backgrounds that puts documentary filmmaking at the center of his work. His cinematography has been featured in each of Ken’s films since The Vietnam War.

Working with Ken as executive producer, Chris co-directed and served as Director of Photography on feature length documentary, The Mayo Clinic: Faith, Hope, Science, broadcast nationally on PBS in September 2018. He and brother Erik are currently co-directing a series of films exploring the mental health crisis, scheduled to air on PBS over a ten-year period beginning in 2022.