BBC dominates mental health media awards again


The BBC has again dominated an annual awards ceremony that recognises the best portrayals and reporting of mental distress.

The broadcaster won six of the nine awards at the Mind Mental Health Media Awards, including recognition for the BBC Four documentary Sectioned and two awards for the BBC’s Headroom campaign around mental health and wellbeing.  Last year, the BBC also won six awards.

The BBC1 soap EastEnders picked up the award for best soap for the second year running for its ongoing storyline involving the character Stacey Slater, who has bipolar disorder.

Channel 4 won the drama award, again for the depiction of a character with bipolar disorder, in its long-running comedy-drama Shameless.

The Speaking Out award was won by former Royal Marine Danny Claricoates, who featured in a Sky documentary in which he told how he developed post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing the deaths of his two closest friends in Afghanistan.

The BBC also dominated the shortlists for the awards – which focus on broadcast and online media – with 12 nominations, compared to two for Channel 4, two for Sky and one for ITV.

Mind said it was keen to engage with the other broadcasters and did not want to criticise them, but accepted that other media organisations had work to do to catch up with the BBC.

A Mind spokeswoman said: “It is a job for us to engage them and hopefully they will be motivated by what they have seen and recognise that there is an appetite for programming about mental health.”

Other award-winners included the Somerset and former England cricketer Marcus Trescothick, for his continuing efforts to raise awareness of mental health conditions, including work on a BBC documentary investigating depression among sports stars.

Trescothick said: “One of the worst things about having a mental health problem is feeling that you are alone and so to be recognised for helping to raise awareness, which will hopefully help others going through the same thing not to feel so isolated, is just the best feeling.”

The awards came on the same day that the Shift campaign – the Department of Health programme to tackle mental health stigma and discrimination – concluded that, despite “clear improvements over recent years”, prime-time TV drama was still struggling to present “an accurate picture of mental illness”.

Shift’s Making Drama out of a Crisis study, which analysed TV drama content over a three-month period on UK terrestrial channels, found an “over dominance of unsympathetic portrayals or references to mental health”, but also pointed to “clear examples” where the issues had been addressed “sensitively and constructively”.

Of 74 programmes containing mental health storylines, there were 33 examples of violence to other characters, 53 examples of self-harm and 33 examples of sympathetic portrayal.

The study concluded that mental illness was “still used as an easy source of violent tragedy or as something to poke fun at”, but there were also examples where “conditions are explained and portrayals are essentially sympathetic”, praising characterisation on shows such as EastEnders and Shameless.

It said the “most likely way to reduce the fear, exclusion and stigma” was by showing mental health conditions as “a normal feature of human life”, with characters integrated in their social and work lives “in spite of and in some ways because of their mental health problems”.

23 November 2010


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