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09th August 2013

Raising mental health awareness with real life stories

What have Stephen Fry, Alastair Campbell and Frank Bruno got in common? They’ve all featured in television programmes that have raised awareness of their own mental health condition. Most recent of these was a powerful programme on BBC3 by Frank Bruno’s daughter Rachel on the impact of her dad’s bi-polar disorder.

I have discussed these real-life stories whilst delivering training to raise awareness about mental health problems, and identify what helps and what doesn’t help people who experience mental distress. Participants can connect with a celebrity whose lives they know something about. Frank Bruno’s mental health problems began after his boxing career ended. His story is particularly memorable because of the treatment he received in the press following his admission to a psychiatric hospital under the Mental Health Act in 2003. The day after Frank Bruno was admitted to hospital the Sun newspaper ran two different headlines in early and late editions of their paper. The Sun first ran the headline ‘Bonkers Bruno locked up’. When mental health organisations complained about this the Sun’s editors changed their next headline to ‘Sad Bruno in mental health home.’ Both of these terms, ‘sad’ and ‘bonkers’, are very unhelpful in trying to encourage people with mental health problems to seek support.

The fact that some celebrities are able to talk publicly about their experiences of mental ill-health is positive in so many ways:

  • These experiences can help fight stigma.  If a celebrity can talk about their mental health problems and get support then so can I;
  • These stories show that even for the most famous people, major mental health problems mean real personal and emotional struggles. However in spite of their problems they can still be successful in public life;
  • They highlight the importance of family and friends in helping them make a recovery. This was one of the key features of the programme by Rachel Bruno, which gave a real insight into the impact on her growing up and how she is able now to support her Dad;
  • Self-help groups do work. One of the key parts of recovery from mental health problems is having the belief you can contribute to your own recovery, and not just rely on interventions and treatments from professionals.

These are some good reasons to support celebrity culture if it is used to promote awareness about mental health conditions and fight discrimination! You can watch the programme by Rachel Bruno by clicking HERE.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

David Beckingham

Mental Health Specialist

David Beckingham is a self-employed independent trainer, and is also an honorary lecturer with the University of Cumbria. His professional background is as a social worker and he has worked in care homes for older people in Cumbria. David’s main area of expertise is in mental health. Prior to becoming self-employed he was a Staff Development and Training Officer with Cumbria County Council, both commissioning and delivering training to mental health workers and others in statutory and independent sector organisations. Read more

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