I am out tonight recording the voiceover for a new official Burnley FC DVD – stay with me, stay with me, this is not another Burnley blog, I promise.
I’m just hoping I get back in time for Inside Sport on BBC1 at 1045, which has a feature on depression in sport.
From the trailers I have seen, with clips from cricketer Marcus Trescothick, boxer Frank Bruno and footballer Neil Lennon, it could be an important moment in the continuing efforts to break down the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness.
And given the recent suicide of depressive German goalkeeper Robert Enke, it could not be more timely in shining a light on mental illness in the macho world of professional sport. It holds such an important place in the national life, and is no different to any other in terms of having people with mental health problems.
BBC programmes won a stack of awards at the Mind Mental Health Media awards at BAFTA in Piccadilly last night, and their Headroom campaign has already made an important contribution to changing the way mental illness is covered and therefore discussed.
Newsnight, for a report on mental illness in Parliament, Radio 4’s You and Yours and the radio drama ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ for the mentally interesting, all received awards.
EastEnders received the Making a Difference award for their ongoing commitment to mental health issues. Actresses Lacey Turner and Gillian Wright, who play mother and daughter Stacy Branning and Jean Slater, both diagnosed with bipolar disorder, collected the award. I know EastEnders are on the shortlist for another one next week, at RADAR, because I am due to present it.
Last night I was also very proud to be on the receiving end, and pick up the award for best full-length documentary for my BBC2 film, Cracking Up, on my breakdown in 1986. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, and would like to, it is up in four parts in the vlog archive of the website.
One of the reasons I made the film, and why I am involved in the ‘Time to Change’ campaign, is that when I was recovering, I found it helped to know there were people out there who had been through something similar. The sports stars who speak out tonight will find all sorts of people coming up to them afterwards to say they, a friend, or a relative have had something similar happen to them.
It is why I sometimes think the ‘One in Four’ figure – one in four of us will directly experience some form of mental illness – may be a conservative estimate.
But as I said last night, I think we are potentially close to a tipping point in terms of having proper understanding of mental illness. The more that people speak out about it, the more normalised the debates should become so that eventually admitting a mental illness is no different to mentioning flu, cancer or a broken leg.
For the sake of completeness – SC4-BBC’s Welsh language soap Pobol Y Cwm won the Soap Award for its portrayal of post-natal depression. The Raising Public Awareness award went to the Health Promotion Agency in Northern Ireland for its ‘Don’t cover up your problems’ campaign targeted at young men to raise awareness of mental health and STV won the Drama category for the series Cracked set in a residential rehab clinic. The Young People’s Media award was won by Teachers TV/Mosaic Films for a series of short animated films narrated by young people who have experienced a range of mental health problems.
Channel 4’s ‘Insanity of war: Unreported world’ won the award for Short Television Documentary; reporter Seyi Rhodes reported from Sierra Leone where thousands of people have been left severely traumatised from the brutal conflict ten years ago, but where there is only one psychiatrist.
And the Speaking Out award went to Tom Perry, Alastair Rolfe and Mark Payge who spoke to the documentary Chosen about their experience of being abused as children at a prep school.
The documentary is sadly too late for Robert Enke, but if his death can allow sport and society to become more open to mental health issues such as this, it can only be a good thing.
You funny. I know your “stay with me, stay with me, this is not another Burnley blog, I promise” isn’t specifically targeted at me but I’ll still want to mention that I loved “Born to Run” and almost considered putting “It’s Not About the Bike” on my Xmas list. I watched the first five minutes of “The Damned United” but really didn’t have any idea what was going on so I stopped the DVD.
I thought exercise was an antidote to depression, I thought it raises one’s endorphins or serotonin or sommit. I guess sports as a career is different. Wish I could peek at doc.
Congratulations again on the award.
It’s 5:44 here and I am off to the gym…. ugh…
Marcus Trescothick’s autobiography, and your novel, are for me the best non fiction and fiction of recent times on this theme. I am not a sports fan but I felt his honesty was so powerful and I too will watch tonight.
I have a copy of your documentary on dvd and have given it to several mental health service users I know, for the exact reason you set out, that it can help when ill to hear stories of others who have been in similar positions and got through. I think your film was also important for showing the broader impact on family and colleagues which we do not consider enough. I work as a volunteer for a mental health centre and rightly the focus is on the mentally ill person, but it can be so hard for families and friends
Talking about mental illness can only be a good thing as the topic is one people shy away from and at the root of this I think, is fear. My breakdown in l993 changed my life and when I wrote an article and then a book (Don’t Mind Me) that was not the end of the story. I had then to allow some of those closest to me, to react. I applaud everyone who is open about their mental illness and I too believe it’s not one in four, it’s more like every one of us is affected in some way. The more we talk openly about mental illness and can support others, the more comfortable it will become to talk about it and the fear and stigma should disappear Mental illness for me was surrounded by shame and a massive drop in confidence; sufferers need reassuring it’s not their fault it’s often bad luck and with support and encouragement they will come through it. The Time To Change campaign can only go from strength to strength.
Every single person in the public eye who opens up about their mental health experience contributes to a wider understanding and awareness. Forty years ago, no one talked openly about having cancer, and thus people died without a better understanding of the misery and suffering which could be caused by – for example – a packet of cigarettes a day.
Openness is a massive contribution to improved health and recovery, and I too am very glad that the BBC and Inside Sport are focusing on this important subject, and allowing many sports fans and followers to feel that depression is an illness, not a weakness.
Tonight’s program on depression in sport will really help get rid of that awful stigma about mental health I think.
I wish I was strong enough to “come out” to my work colleagues but I think I am just now ready yet!
Handing out Winner Awards to folks who have proven they aren’t ” … all there … ” – whatever next, then?
Let’s all pray the ‘Powers that Be’ don’t “normalise” CrazyPeople abit TOO far, because we all – to quote the words of the Billy Joel song lyrics – ” … love you just the way you are …”
Besides, wiser to remember you are more like One In A Million – a more ennobling and empowering Global Metaphor than a mere “one in four” – just another dumb (and typically inaccurate) Mental Healthcare statistic. Which dubious, innumerate NHS nelly’s responsible for that headcount, exactly?
Still, comforting to learn that even scientific academics in their ivory towers struggle to grapple with the mysterious world of numbers
Handling figures that clumsily, it follows every cricket team Banger Tresco (Marcus Trescothick) has ever played in – at whatever level, through school, then club to county, then England Test – there’s been THREE players with mental health ‘issues’ included in the lineup
Naturally, I counted in the 12th Man substitute, as at club level, often that sub turns out to be me. (Because I excel at carrying a tray of soft drinks, without spilling a drop)
I quench thirsts, whereas Marcus’ opening up and going public, has the potential to change lives, inside AND outside sport
Inside sport? Guess you recall the depression that led Yorkshire CCC wicket-keeper, aged 46, the likeable David Bairstow, to hang himself at his home in Marton-cum-Grafton, Yorkshire, on 5th January 1998?
I still do. And I guarantee the loved ones he left behind, now living in Dunnington, including his wife Janet, and children Andy, Jonathon and Becky, they do
Worth reflecting on any such parallels, during your own rougher moments, when depression climbs down inside you and you feel defenceless to prevent its power temporarily taking you over