Channel 4 cause outrage with mental health season stunt

Channel 4 cause outrage with mental health season stunt

By Charlotte Fantelli

Channel 4 have caused a stir by 'straightjacketing' the statues of some very famous British heroes and heroines. The stunt was carried out in a bid to highlight the 4 'Goes Mad' season.

The season itself aims to tackle the important topic of mental illness, and does so by looking at the abilities and successes of people with mental health problems. I am personally involved as a contributor in the season, and wanted to get involved (despite misgivings about 'sensationalism' and the shocking titles of both the season and the programmes) because I believe that open, intelligent debate about mental illness is so important.

Mental illness sufferers are often portrayed as weak or criminal in the mass media, and indeed much of popular culture, so I personally see a shocking public reminder that some of our most notable citizens have battled mental illness as empowering. The statues that were targeted are: Winston Churchill, Parliament Square, London, Charles Darwin, Shrewsbury, Florence Nightingale, London, and Samuel Johnson, Lichfield. 

Lina Prestwood, Commissioning Editor for the season says: "We wanted to demonstrate how outmoded attitudes towards mental illness can be - by using the archaic image of the straightjacket in conjunction with individuals whose achievements have made them some of the most celebrated Britons of all time - they also happened to have mental health conditions."

While the channel defend their move, in an interview with The Sun, Churchill's grandson Nicholas Soames called the stunt 'contemptible'

National mental health charity Rethink supports the provocative act, associate director Jane Harris, says: "We're pleased to see Channel 4 putting mental health on the agenda with this bold stunt. Churchill in a straightjacket is a provocative but powerful image which highlights the message that mental illness can affect anyone, no matter how able or successful." 

Rethink themselves made a bronze statue of Churchill in a straightjacket in 2006, a controversial move, but one that sparked the public imagination, and more importantly, tongue. Ms Harris says: "Our campaign six years ago caused some controversy, but the response we had from the public was overwhelmingly positive. Most importantly, it opened up a national conversation around the taboo subject of mental illness."

The stunt has been loved and hated in equal measure, dividing the public and mental health advocates alike, but whichever side of the fence you fall, you have to admit, it has the country talking about mental illness.

What do you think? Was it a bold move or a step too far? Please enter your thoughts below.

Your rating: None Average: 7.8 (11 votes)

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