This May, as we continue to live through challenging times, the BBC is broadcasting a range of content that highlights the stories of those who have faced mental health struggles and provides audiences with help and support to boost their resilience and look after their wellbeing.
Content includes a number of deeply personal documentaries on BBC television: Joe Wicks explores what it is like to grow up with parents who experience mental illness; Fergal Keane lays bare the impact of PTSD; Paul Merson and Adrian Chiles reflect on their mental health as they walk through the English landscape; and film-maker Klaartje Quirjins examines the way we deal with family, secrets, and life itself in the documentary: Your Mum and Dad: A Universal Truth.
In addition, there will be special films and discussion on The One Show, Gardeners’ World and Countryfile.
Charlotte Moore, Chief Content Officer, says: “The BBC has a long commitment to tackling mental health issues in our programmes and this year it feels more important than ever to let people know they are not alone, and to provide help and support where we can. To mark Mental Health Awareness week, we have a breadth of content across television, radio and digital including documentaries, podcasts, guided meditation, playlists and discussion which I hope will resonate with audiences and give people the tools they need to boost their resilience and look after their wellbeing.”
Joe Wicks: Facing My Childhood
Joe Wicks became a national hero during the first lockdown with his hugely successful “PE With Joe” workouts. But in the wake of the pandemic, it’s not just the nation’s physical health that concerns him – it’s our mental health.
Many of the thousands of letters and messages Joe has received since he began his workouts have been from parents, confiding in him about their own mental health struggles and their worries for their children. Unfortunately, Joe knows all too well how stressful and confusing it can be when you are a child and your Mum and Dad aren’t well and he wants to find out more.
In Joe Wicks: Facing My Childhood, Joe opens up on about his mum’s OCD, eating disorders and anxiety, as well as his dad’s heroin addiction and depression. He wants to understand how his family’s illnesses affected him when he was a child and how we can better support kids and families living in similar situations today.
Startlingly honest and emotional conversations with his mum, dad and brother unearth long-suppressed memories and lead Joe to confront how he dealt with his turbulent home life, and how it forged his identity today.
Fergal Keane: Living with PTSD
BBC Special Correspondent Fergal Keane has been on our screens recently, reporting on the unfolding refugee crisis in Ukraine. But this is far from the only conflict he’s covered during his long and acclaimed career. From Kigali to Baghdad to Belfast, he has always been at the heart of the story; a trusted BBC face, known for reporting with humanity and extraordinary empathy.
Offscreen, however, Fergal struggled to keep another story from overwhelming him. He was suffering from an acute form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In 2020, Fergal went public with his diagnosis. In this deeply personal film, Fergal lays bare the impact of PTSD on himself and others like him. He explores how the condition led him to consider withdrawing from conflict reporting, investigates the latest scientific thinking behind PTSD and its treatment.
Paul Merson - A Walk Through My Life
Ex-England footballer Paul Merson reflects on his life, career and struggles with addictions as he takes a walk in the countryside with only a 360-degree camera for company. Paul returns to Yorkshire in this one-off documentary, a place where he lived after leaving Arsenal for Middlesbrough in 1997.
Paul talks about anxiety during childhood and his three-decade-long fight with alcohol and gambling, and how his life was turned upside down. Paul Merson - A Walk Through My Life is a co-commission by BBC Two and BBC England. It has been produced by Atypical. The documentary will air on Thursday 5 May at 8pm.
Winter Walks – Adrian Chiles
Broadcaster Adrian Chiles reflects on his mental health and attention deficit disorder (ADD) diagnosis as he takes a seaside walk in this one-off documentary.
Adrian has only a 360-degree camera for company as he enjoys a stroll around Scarborough on the Yorkshire Coast.
Winter Walks – Adrian Chiles is a co-commission by BBC Four and BBC England. It has been produced by Atypical. The documentary will air on Monday 9 May at 7.30pm.
Storyville: Your Mum and Dad: A Devastating Truth
Inspired by Philip Larkin’s poem 'This be the Verse', this documentary is a universal exploration into the many ways we deal with family, secrets, and life itself. Film-maker Klaartje Quirjins originally set out to document therapy – but the director then decided to turn the camera on herself, beginning a journey to unravel her own family secrets. As a mother herself, Quirijns traces the lineage of her story across three generations – her mother, herself, and now her two daughters.
Meanwhile the therapist Kirkland Vaughans guides viewers through the complexities of the mind, showing how easy it is to become colonised by the behaviour of our parents. With the use of intimate family footage and diary filming, the director takes us on a voyage that many will find familiar and familial.