Speaking out on mental health

I was pleased to host a moving roundtable discussion in the House of Commons this month bringing together broadcasters, actors and people with experience of mental health problems to discuss best practice in the media.C4 Hollyoaks

The event was chaired by news presenter Jackie Long from Channel Four, one of over 500 organisations to sign up to the Time to Change pledge to counter mental health stigma.

The meeting heard that C4 soap Hollyoaks, which is based in my Liverpool Wavertree constituency, has worked closely with Mind and the Samaritans to create mental health storylines, which have formed part of a wider Hollyoaks mental health campaign promoted through the online hashtag #DontFilterFeelings.

In fact, Hollyoaks won Soap of the Year at the recent Mind Media Awards for its sensitive handling of Scott Drinkwell’s (Ross Adams) depression storyline aired in June last year. Ross Adams said that it was a ‘special day’ to be involved in the discussions.

We also heard from Jonny Benjamin and Neil Laybourn. The C4 programme Stranger on a Bridge tells the story of Jonny’s search for Neil, the stranger who stopped him from jumping off a London bridge.

The roundtable heard calls for an end to pressure for unrealistic ‘happy endings’ in dramas and for more people with mental health problems to appear in long-running storylines.

The media in general, and broadcasters in particular, make a significant contribution to reflecting society’s attitudes. They can make a big difference in mental health by recognising the changes that are rapidly taking place as more and more people speak out about their experiences.