BBC announces major mental health season in turbulent times


BBC Radio 2

Mental Health Awareness Week this year falls in unprecedented times - the nation is coming to terms with isolation and uncertainty and the UK is facing an unknown future.

To mark the week, the BBC is curating a range of programming across TV, Radio and Digital that will transmit throughout the month of May. It is estimated that in the UK one in four of us will have some sort of mental health issue in our lifetime, and the BBC has a long commitment to showing impactful and critically acclaimed programmes that resonate strongly with those experiencing some form of mental illness.

Tony Hall, BBC Director-General, says: “Mental health is important - and during this pandemic more important than ever. Many people may be struggling alone, they may be worried about maintaining their own well-being or want to better equip themselves to help loved ones. That’s why bringing mental health issues out into the open is so important. Our programmes aim to do just that. They highlight the issues affecting many and will hopefully help people seek the support they need.

"The BBC wants to help. Hopefully these programmes will make a real difference. I want to thank all the contributors who have generously shared their personal stories with the BBC.”

Charlotte Moore, Director, BBC Content, says: “The BBC has a long commitment to tackling mental health issues in our programmes but it’s never felt more important to raise awareness and bring the conversation out into the open when so many people are feeling isolated and alone.

"We’re taking our commitment even further to provide a vital support to those in need and reach an even broader audience with programmes that will explore what we can all do to look after ourselves, help loved ones and deal with the anxiety so many are experiencing through this crisis.”

In addition to brand new programming, a selection of documentaries from the last two years will be shown in order to provide help to people who are struggling during these extraordinary circumstances.

In 2019, the BBC’s Mental Health Action Line received more than 83,000 online visits and calls from viewers, highlighting programmes such as those being shown by the BBC this May have a real impact with the viewers

The charity Mind analysed peaks in visits to its online information pages over six months following their first showings, and found that following the BBC Two documentary David Harewood: Psychosis And Me visits to Mind’s psychosis pages rose by 107 percent in comparison to the daily average; and there was a 50 percent increase in visits to its anxiety pages following the BBC One documentary Nadiya Hussain: Anxiety And Me.

Highlights across the month include brand new documentaries What’s The Matter with Tony Slattery and Tackling Mental Health with The Duke of Cambridge (w/t); BBC One, Two and Three will be re-showing some of its most impactful recent films, including Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum And Dad, Alastair Campbell: Depression And Me and Killed By My Debt.

There will be a weekly mix of specially curated music in Radio 3’s In Tune Mixtape; Radio 4 will look at the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic on both mental and physical health in Inside Health: The Virus; BBC Music and BBC Archive have worked with more than 100 organisations in an unprecedented collaboration to harness the power of music; BBC Ten Pieces has developed Music Memories for people who can’t see their loved ones at the moment; CBBC’s Newsround will look at themes around kindness; from BBC Wales The Sesh will focus on young mental health carers; BBC Scotland will feature kindness throughout the week of 18-24 May, as well as show the intimate film Playing The Game featuring footballer Gary O’Conner; and there will be special programming from BBC Northern Ireland.


Tackling Mental Health with The Duke of Cambridge (w/t)
This film focuses on men’s mental health through the prism of football, with access to HRH The Duke of Cambridge over the course of a year.

We’re with The Duke as he meets players, fans and managers from grassroots to the elite as part of his efforts to start the biggest ever conversation on mental health, through football.

The film will also tell the stories of men from across the country who have been affected by, or are currently experiencing, mental health issues. The men come from all walks of life, from former England goalkeeper Joe Hart, who has been forced to cope with a very public decline in his career and is now struggling to get into the first team at Burnley, to a group of bereaved fathers who use their local football team as a support network and safe space to talk.

Former Premier League footballer Marvin Sordell opens up about his struggles with depression, and Aston Villa centre back and England defender Tyrone Mings talks about the pressures of living and performing in the public eye playing top level football.

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard opens up to the Duke about how as a player he was "stuck in the stone age" when it came to mental health, and how there's still a long way to go in how it's dealt with at clubs.

The programme will build on the conversation started in the BBC One film from 2019, A Royal Team Talk, where The Duke met with well-known faces from the world of football for an extraordinarily candid conversation about the importance of men’s mental health and mental fitness.

What’s the Matter With Tony Slattery?
The 1x60’ documentary will form part of BBC Two’s flagship science Horizon strand.

Tony Slattery became a comedy star in the 1990s, regularly appearing on both stage and screen. A regular guest on shows such as Channel 4’s Whose Line Is It Anyway, he was a gifted, creative and clever actor.

But by the turn of the millennium, he’d had a breakdown and completely vanished from public life. Bipolar disorder was discussed but, at the time, Tony was struggling with cocaine and alcohol addiction and it wasn’t possible to make a clear diagnosis. This film follows Tony and his partner of 35 years, Mark Hutchinson, as they visit the UK’s leading experts on mood disorders and addiction in the hope of getting some clarity on the problems that have dogged his life.

As well as following Tony in his search for a clearer diagnosis, the programme will also explore new developments in the science of understanding and treating complex mood disorders, which Tony, and others in similar situations, will potentially be able to benefit from. These include using new technology as a diagnostic tool and the latest thinking about the relative impact of genetics versus environment in the development of mental health issues.

BBC One, Two and Three will be curating some of the most powerful mental health films from those that have been shown over the past few years.


The Bafta Award winning Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum And Dad follows Rio Ferdinand a year after losing his wife Rebecca to cancer, as he tries to come to terms with the loss and its effects on him and his three children. The documentary had a massive impact, with a consolidated audience of over seven million viewers, and brought about the incredible follow-up film, Rio and Kate: Becoming A Step Family.

Tjat followed the Ferdinand family in the lead-up to Rio and Kate’s wedding, as Kate took on not just the role of fiancée to Rio, but ‘mum’ to three grieving children, and faced a set of emotionally complicated challenges.

The critically acclaimed Nadiya: Anxiety And Me sensitively details Nadiya Hussein’s emotional battle with severe anxiety, traced right back to her childhood. The documentary shone a spotlight on the racist bullying Nadiya endured as a child and the impact it had on her throughout her life.

A Royal Team Talk, a one-off film presented by Dan Walker sees HRH the Duke of Cambridge join Peter Crouch, Danny Rose, Thierry Henry, Jermaine Jenas and Gareth Southgate for a truly revealing discussion on issues from depression and racism to career-ending injury and emotional pressures - all to try to make a difference to the way men talk about mental health.


David Harewood: Psychosis And Me documents the actor’s journey to rehabilitation after being sectioned for a psychotic breakdown in his early 20s. As David (pictured above) tries to piece together what happened to him, he also meets people going through mental health crises today and spends time with combined emergency NHS mental health and police teams in his hometown of Birmingham as they respond to 999 calls to treat people in distress.

David received the Speaking Out award from Mind, given to people who have made an impact by sharing their own experiences of mental health problems.

Alastair Campbell: Depression And Me showed that away from the public eye, Alastair has been dogged by crippling bouts of depression for most of his life. Some days just getting out of bed is too hard. Therapy and anti-depressant medication is helping him keep his head above water - but Alastair goes on a quest to see if cutting-edge science can offer him the hope of living depression-free.

Being Gail Porter is an insightful documentary which sees the TV presenter open up about two decades of mental health problems, delving into her past and revealing the key moments in a deeply personal exploration of depression, self-harm and anorexia.

In 1999, Gail Porter (pictured above) was one of the UK’s most sought-after female TV presenters. Most famously, she helped sell over a million copies of FHM magazine after they projected her naked image onto the Houses of Parliament. Then, over the next 20 years, things took a turn for the worse - she suffered post-natal depression, alopecia and was sectioned under the Mental Health Act. In 2014 she even ended up sleeping rough on a park bench. “The celebrity fairytale became a nightmare,” reveals Gail. So how did this happen to wee Gail Porter from Portobello?

BBC Three

BBC Three has put together a collection of films with a focus on issues related to mental health. They include the Bafta Award-winning Killed By My Debt, which tells the heartbreaking true story of 19 year-old Jerome Rogers who took his own life after accruing crippling debts through a poisonous chain of zero-hours contracts, payday loans, parking fines and bailiffs.

Ugly Me: My Life With Body Dysmorphia which focuses on the personal story of Liane; Olly Alexander: Growing Up Gay which explores mental health issues faced by members of the LGBT+ community; The Rapper Who Chopped His Penis Off which looks at the drug-induced mental crisis of Wu-Tang Clan-affiliated rapper Christ Bearer; and Diabulimia: The World’s Most Dangerous Eating Disorder which follows the stories of three young women who are risking their eyesight, limbs, fertility and lives in order to be thin.

Also during May on BBC One Daytime, HealthCheck UK Live will be returning with a mix of expert tips and guidance to help Britain cope with mental health issues during the pandemic. They will be joined by some favourite faces, all helping to guide viewers through the mental and physical challenges of lockdown, including Chris Packham who will explain how the power of nature helps to reduce stress levels.

Later in May, Ross Kemp: Britain’s Volunteer Army will look at the acts of kindness being demonstrated by some of the nation’s 750,000 coronavirus volunteers to support those who are isolating, such as brightening people’s days with a chat on the phone.

The One Show will soon be announcing a major project that will highlight gardening and its benefits for mental health during Mental Health Week, and will also be running a number of films supporting mental health around this time

BBC News will continue to examine the wider impact of coronavirus and lockdown on people’s mental health and wellbeing.

BBC Factual is also exploring areas of mental health that are particularly relevant to youth audiences by commissioning additional, topical short-form digital and social content around the subject.



Talks With Reece Parkinson
Friday 22 May, 2.30pm-3pm
A special episode celebrating community heroes who are working to improve the lives of people around them.

Radio 2

Jeremy Vine
Wednesday 20 May, 12pm-2pm
On his Radio 2 show the presenter will be discussing how to support a loved one who is feeling suicidal. He’ll be joined by consultant psychiatrist, Dr Michael Isaac.

Radio 3

In Tune Mixtape
Monday - Friday, 7pm-7.30pm
As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, BBC Radio 3’s daily evening playlist In Tune Mixtape will broadcast a week of specially curated mixes. Inspired by our human emotions and experiences - from classical favourites to eclectic surprises - five 30-minute musical journeys will focus on themes of hope, rest, healing, discovery and joy.

Music Matters
Saturday 23 May, 12.45pm-1.30pm
Kate Molleson (pictured above) will be taking an in-depth look at the musical stories that matter during Mental Health Awareness week. In Music Matters she will present a special focus on how music can help during this time of isolation.

Essential Classics
Monday - Friday, 9am-12pm
Essential Classics will offer listeners a chance to pause and reflect with a daily 'slow moment' - an eclectic range of classical music selected for Mental Health Awareness week.

Radio 4

Inside Health: The Virus
Tuesdays at 9pm
Claudia Hammond reports on the unfolding coronavirus pandemic, focusing on the consequences for both physical and mental health. The series draws on the expertise of BBC Radio 4’s Inside Health and All In The Mind teams, looking at a range of mental health considerations including how people with mental health issues can deal with isolation when their usual coping strategies aren’t available to them.

The New Anatomy Of Melancholy
Weekdays 11 May-22 May, 1.45pm-2pm
In this series, writer Amy Liptrot uses Robert Burton’s 400 year-old text, The Anatomy Of Melancholy, as a guide to explore melancholy in the 21st century to see what can be learnt from the text, with Simon Russell Beale as the voice of Robert Burton.

Amy speaks to leading experts in mental health research and she talks to individuals about their own experiences, including: gardener and broadcaster Monty Don; broadcaster and author Gemma Cairney; pioneering cell biologist and author of Malignant Sadness: The Anatomy of Depression, Lewis Wolpert; and a young survivor of the Manchester Arena attack. Each episode takes on a different theme from Burton’s book and covers causes including genetics, inflammation, inequality and trauma as well as the ‘cures’ that Burton recommends.


BBC Music and BBC Archive Editorial are working with over 100 organisations to harness the power of music to help the well-being of people living with dementia, their families, friends and carers. This unprecedented collaboration features content across TV, radio and digital with an intergenerational approach to change lives through music.

The BBC Music Memories website is key to the initiative. Using the extensive BBC Archives, the groundbreaking digital platform offers 3,000 free 30-second music clips to stimulate memory through music.

It helps families, friends and carers to support people with dementia to identify personally meaningful music and create playlists. Music has been proven to help people with dementia to feel and live better.

With a focus on Bame communities, the music catalogue recently expanded to include international music from 20 countries with the largest immigrant communities in the UK.

BBC Memory Radio is also part of the initiative. This series of programmes are curated decade by decade from the BBC Radio Archives and are available on BBC Sounds and Alexa devices.

For more information please go to the Music & Dementia At The BBC website.

To connect generations in isolation, BBC Ten Pieces has developed a new activity for all ages, in partnership with BBC Music’s Music And Dementia At The BBC.

In Music Memories, families are encouraged to draw a picture of someone they love but can’t see at the moment due to the lockdown. They are also asked to think of a piece of music that reminds them of that person and a description of why, and send their picture and music selection to them.

For children who may have grandparents or relatives living with dementia, this project might be even more special. Music has the unique power to help unlock memories, helping people to connect with their families, friends and carers. Music Memories will be available on the Ten Pieces website from the 4 May.


CBBC’s Newsround marks the week with themes around kindness and the emotional well-being of boys. Children will talk about times they have experienced kindness and how it made them feel and new online content will show the physical effects of being kind. The team will also look at the history of attitudes towards boys expressing emotions with Psychologist Laverne Antrobus as well as talking to men about times they have cried and how it helped them.

Popular CBBC docu series My Life will air this month with mental health themed episodes including Nikki Lilly meeting mental health guru Bryony Gordon and Dr Chris and Dr Xand Van Tulleken investigating what mental health is and why things can sometimes go wrong.

On BBC Sounds, I’ve Been There podcasts sees celebrities open up to Radio 1’s Katie Thistleton about a mental health issue before discussing it with teenagers currently facing the same difficulty, to share their insights and help them through.

Jamie Johnson, CBBC’s hit football drama has a crucial mental health storyline coming up where Jamie’s best friend BOGGY, Phoenix’s FC’s master statistician, is haunted by his poor performance in an exam at the start of the series. Like many young men, Boggy chooses to bottle up his anxieties rather than tell anyone around him what he’s going through.


BBC Bitesize's new daily lessons will include a dedicated wellbeing segment on BBC iPlayer for children aged 5-11 each Friday. This will cover everything from finding calm, to the importance of keeping active, to coping with everyday losses such as missing friends or clubs. Mental health will be a theme for older students too, with Motivation Monday, Wellbeing Wednesday and Thinking Thursday themes to help them keep on track.

BBC Bitesize Support offers a wealth of resources to help young people take care of their mental health. Kindness is a key theme across the content, and particularly in these very topical articles on self-care and helping others:

How I maintain my mental wellbeing while in lockdown

Seven ways you can help during the coronavirus pandemic

The Bitesize Parents’ Toolkit has been designed to help parents find wellbeing support, helpful advice and inspirational activities for themselves and their children during the lockdown. It signposts a wealth of resources, including for children with SEND, from across the BBC and beyond.

BBC Teach will also be publishing new content to coincide with Mental Health Week. Look out for The Brain Lab, a brand-new series of films for teachers and students on mindset and mindfulness. These introduce the five steps to wellbeing: ‘Connect with Others’, ‘Be Active’, Give to Others, ‘Take Notice’ and ‘Keep Learning’. They demonstrate the importance and impact a 'growth mindset' can have, providing practical tips and advice on how to develop one.

As well as classroom resources, BBC Teach offers support for teachers, recognising their efforts as they go the extra mile to provide education and guidance for their students in lockdown. In May, BBC Teach will publish an article in which primary head teacher, Darren Morgan, writes about the unexpected opportunities for personal growth, reflection and mindfulness that school closures have presented for teachers.


The Sesh - BBC Wales’s short form content platform - is focussing on young mental health carers, those helping others during tough times.

The Bafta Cymru Award-winning series In My Skin is available to watch on BBC iPlayer. A dark comedy series from writer Kayleigh Llewellyn, she’s mined her own experiences to create this coming-of-age story about a teenage girl leading a double life. Bethan (Gabrielle Creevy) desperately tries to keep the truth of her home life a secret from her friends.



Mornings with Kaye Adams will cover all aspects of Mental Health during the week 18-24 May, with specific phone-ins and features. The Afternoon Show will focus on community kindness, as has been highlighted by Covid-19, and the evening music show Get It On With Bryan Burnett will feature a kindness theme.

TV/BBC iPlayer

Playing The Game 1 x 30’ - new
Garry O’ Connor was a shining star of Scottish football after he burst on to the scene as a teenage striker with Hibernian. The powerful and skillful forward seemed to have the world at his feet after establishing himself as one of the hottest properties in the game.

In 2006, he moved into the big money league when his stellar performances earned him a £1.6 million transfer to Lokomotiv Moscow. He enjoyed huge highs in the game and was feted as one of the most dynamic talents to have recently emerged from Scotland, gaining international caps and playing in the English premier league with Birmingham as well as having two spells in Russian football.

However, the young forward also endured many dark moments during a career which began so promisingly but became a rollercoaster of highs and lows. In this revealing documentary, Garry O’Connor talks candidly about mental health, money and drugs, giving a unique insight into the glitz, glamour and darkness behind professional football.

Scoobs And The Rave Years (repeat)
The story of Scotland's superstar DJ you’ve never heard of. A crowd-pulling DJ at 15, Stuart ‘Scooby’ Cochrane raved riotously through the thriving dance music scene in Scotland, becoming a DJ and then latterly a pioneer of the emerging rave scene in the 1990s. He scaled greatness throughout the decade, then fell short of the summit, living a life of decadence which took its own toll.

Lumo (repeat)
Documentary examining the life and death of 21 year-old Glasgow rapper Lumo, whose suicide sent shockwaves through the Scottish hip hop community and became a force for change.

Spit It Out (repeat)
Scottish rapper Bee discovers how her music, poetry and performance can help her recover and regain her confidence and help other rape survivors.

Personal Stories
Short films about mental health, released at the same time as the Gail Porter documentary

In My Mind
Four people in the public eye tell their mental health stories and how they dealt with issues around anxiety, depression and self harm


BBC Northern Ireland will be running a range of features and packages across TV, Radio and online throughout the week.


The BBC Own It app
Making the internet a kinder place, one message at a time, the Own It app and keyboard is designed for kids to use when they get their first phone, helping children to live their best life online.

During Mental Health Awareness Week, Own It will be reminding kids that behind every profile there is a real person with feelings, so let’s be kind to each other.

The Own It keyboard gives kids advice and support as they type. If they’re feeling sad, bad or being a bit unkind, the keyboard gives them a helping hand. The Own It app will feature a Kindness collection, including tips on how to turn a bad mood into a good mood, how to support someone who’s feeling sad, and advice on how to share the love and good vibes.

The app also has a diary feature so kids can write about how they’re feeling and reflect on their emotions. Sometimes children may struggle to express themselves online so Own It will also offer specially-created GIFs with ‘kindness’ as the theme for kids to enjoy and share.

A TV trail for the Own It app will air on the CBBC channel during Mental Health Awareness Week.


The BBC places the utmost importance on the mental health and wellbeing of all those who work for us. We have a range of programmes and support networks for staff focusing on three areas: prevention of ill health, building resilience and providing support where needed.

This includes online mental health and resilience sessions, access to over 1,000 staff mental health first aiders, well-being courses for staff and managers provided by the BBC Academy, the Employee Assistance Programme, which includes a confidential 24-hour helpline, and access to a remote GP.

Most recently, we have also given all BBC employees access to an online platform which provides a confidential service to help individuals track and understand their well-being and mental health over time. Recognising the impact of the current crisis on the freelance community we have opened up our Employee Assistance Programme and remote GP service to BBC PAYE freelancers to help them with their mental health needs. In addition, as we previously announced, the BBC is donating £700,000 to The Film & TV Charity to assist those affected by the hiatus in filming due to Covid-19.

Earlier this week, BBC Comedy Commissioning announced the creation of the Galton & Simpson Bursary for Comedy Writing.

At a time when everyone is feeling the effects of isolation it’s particularly apt to celebrate the life and work of two people who originally met in a sanatorium and went on to define what television comedy could be. Aimed at writers and writing partnerships, the bursary will award £5,500 to develop a script for broadcast consideration under the guidance of established industry practitioners and BBC Comedy Commissioning.

Source BBC Radio 2

April 30, 2020 3:55am ET by BBC Radio 2  

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