Is mental health dealt with sensitively on the BBC?

If our client had gone on a local BBC radio station to talk about her struggle with cancer the interviewer might have handled the interview a little more sensitively … I have no doubt. But our client was on to plug her organisation’s fundraising month, and concert that afternoon, and to create awareness of personality disorder and self harm… And she was given quite an insensitive grilling.

I find it difficult to prioritise which questions the interviewer asked appalled me the most. Was it the interviewer’s ignorance? What is self harm? he asked. What do you do to yourself?

Here are a few other questions. Decide for yourself: What were you cutting yourself with and where? When my client explained, the presenter replied: “That strikes me as completely out there behaviour.” He then asked my client where her extreme loathing came from.

So was it that the presenter overstepped the mark and asked far too many intimate questions?  Or was it that he was trying to present a picture of what it is like?

For me, talking about someone’s struggle with self harming is not entertainment – it should form part of a radio package that seeks to inform.

jag pr has written to the programme’s producer and it will be interesting to see what reply we get. I will let you know.

What is it about mental health that some people don’t like talking about it? And if they do, it is trivialized? Yet we are all affected in some way…have you never suffered with stress and anxiety? … There are not many people out there who haven’t, particularly nowadays.

I suppose we have come a long way since we called certain buildings asylums and those suffering with a mental health condition, mad. But in the 21st century shouldn’t we a bit more enlightened, sensitive and informed?

If the interviewer on this breakfast news programme is anything to go by, some people out there are still a little stuck in the dark ages and still think Bedlam is alive and well and doing its own brand of roaring trade.

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5 Responses to Is mental health dealt with sensitively on the BBC?

  1. Fiona Thompson says:

    Thank you to Jag for taking this up.

    I have found over the years that there are always people who do not want to hear. It seems as if they are scared of hearing what a fellow human being can be capable of when pushed far beyond their emotional limits. I have often wondered if my story forces others to look at their own sense of self and fear its fragility.

    In those cases it seems preferable to put such behaviour neatly into a box marked, ‘so mad it couldn’t possibly have anything to do with me’ and walk away.

    But we are still here. We are still daughters, lovers, sisters, Fathers and Mothers. We are not a race apart and anyone at anytime may suffer as we have and must not be ignored.

  2. The first thing this reminded me of was watching an episode of a daytime talk show. A person who attended my mental health service was on there. I sat open mouthed as the host berated her for her behaviour, including self harm, had a flip chart of her perceived problems and telling her ‘you need to get help’. She was in a therapeutic program.

    I’ve seen this attitude in healthcare when people do not understand Borderline Personality Disorder and self harm. They will be rude and aggressive, imagining that they’re ‘saying the unsayable’ and that this will shock someone into a sudden realisation and behaviour change.

    It really underlines to me the constant work we have to do in engaging and working with the media. I’m lucky to have had good TV, newspaper and radio interviews, but in the one’s where it’s been a rapid slot filler rather than having a good chat and getting to know each other before doing some work, I never talked about self harm. Depression and anxiety were challenging enough.

    Good representation and authentic voices in the media about self harm need to happen. Anyone being ‘confrontational for our own good’ or thinking they’re reflecting their ‘viewing public’ need to be engaged in a dialogue of education.

  3. It is truly appalling that the interviewer acted this way, much like the article in the Daily Mail yesterday – the levels of ignorance, intolerance and stigmatising attitudes in the media seem only to be on the increase rather than any sign of improvement. What would they really like from us? It seems to me they would love nothing more than to make us crack in their presence so they can witness and publicise self-harm ‘as it happens’ for some big glory moment for them selves so they can say – “look what I did, aren’t I clever – I got someone to demonstrate self-harm firsthand, now you can all see they really are as crazy as we believe them to be” very sick, but very plausible…

  4. Jen Dylan says:

    I think it awful and very sad that any media let alone the BBC should behave and work in such a way. My thoughts are that is due to a few reasons. The media love shock, they feel that is what the general listeners/readers want to hear. The individuals do not take time to find out enough about a topic which they are going to be interviewing about. I think generally people are very scared in what mental health/self harm triggers in them. To be so crass, insensitive and quite frankly stupid is in my opinion a way of avoiding looking at their own lives, emotions and reactions. I think it a defence. It is unforgivable in one sense but I also believe that we must try to understand why there is this level of ignorance or we will never be able to find a way forward and to improve the level of understanding about mental health in our society. Perhaps those who conducted the interview should step forward, read these comments, find out more about the subject, listen as opposed to talk to those affected and open up their minds. They may just learn something important.

  5. Pingback: A great result following our complaint to the BBC - jag Press & Publicity

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