Documentary-maker Louis Theroux is not one to shy away from controversial topics.
Over his career, the 49-year-old has dived into polyamory, assisted dying, white supremacy, survivalists, Scientology, sex trafficking and more. If it’s intimate or taboo, Theroux has probably tackled it.
Most recently, he’s turned his attention to sexual assault on American university campuses and mothers suffering from severe mental illness after giving birth.
For Mothers on the Edge, Theroux spent time in two specialist psychiatric units which treat mothers with serious postpartum mental illness, allowing them to live alongside their babies while receiving treatment.
While immersing himself on the wards, Theroux met women who were admitted with a range of serious conditions including depression, anxiety and psychosis.
Postpartum psychosis was not something Theroux knew much about before a colleague shared an article with him. The father-of-three told The Guardian he was struck by how the illness resembled the "strange mix of elation and desperation" new parents felt.
"I like to pick themes that are extreme versions of things we all struggle with," he said. "We have this rose-tinted view of what motherhood should be like. Yet if we’re honest, especially those of us who have had children, we know it isn’t that simple. It’s the nature of parenthood to feel, some of the time, that you might be one of the worst parents who ever lived. It’s very rarely an uncomplicated rush of positive emotions."
As he followed three patients and their families both in hospital and recovering back at home, Theroux explored what was behind their recent crisis and discovered the enormous challenge in caring for two people in the most vulnerable state of their lives.