Genuine surprise greeted the team at the news that we had won the best factual series award. According to the BAFTA jury, Bedlam won for “taking viewers well beyond TV’s often shallow treatment of mental illness, with honest and genuinely illuminating interviews from its contributors.” For all the star-struck fickleness we enjoyed with Hollywood stars (see below) on the night, the BAFTA jury displayed an incredibly enlightened view of the importance of mental health to public debate and public service television’s part in it.
The difference between the anecdotal and public views of mental health, over the course of a very long production period by current standards, became stark to me. The huge degree of empathy for peoples lives’ – very often pushed over the edge through circumstance – resonated with friends, family, social media and frankly anyone in, re-cast, austerity Britain. The line between having, and not having, mental health issues is frankly a ‘fine’ one. Massively excaberbated by the mirror ‘everyone else’ – “us” – reflect back to “them.” Empathy is therefore key, to helping others not feel even more alienated, and recognising ones own attitudes and susceptibility to the proximity of the “line”, but even this is shadowed by the blast of awareness the ‘box’ is able to garner – pure magic – to help form wider positive perceptions. Who on earth would not be deeply touched by the conscious bravery of Dominic in taking a leap of faith – by allowing in the TV crews – to chaperone the viewer through his own life and predicaments, and its impact on his family, particularly his, frankly heroic, teenage daughter Rosie.
Bedlam and its brave contributors have performed a massive public service to mental health awareness, as great TV can inspire. Having spent three years as a social entrepreneur among Big Society’s refugees, scrabbling around to find new social innovations – ways to simultaneously fund and tackle expanding societal issues – at the same time money is tantilisingly dangled or withdrawn, invisibility adds insult to the daily community miracles performed on the ground. Set to be epidemic levels according to the World Health Organisation, mental health needs visibility, as it needs empathy. I am proud to say Bedlam and Channel 4 achieved a lot in four hours of telly – to raise massive public awareness.
And yes, “Jessie” – Aaron Paul – was a dude!