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An open letter to ITV

Dear ITV,

We’re writing a formal letter to you requesting a public statement detailing your response to the comments Piers Morgan made on Good Morning Britain on Monday 8th March.

More specifically, his comments expressing doubt and disbelief that Meghan Markle’s experience of mental health struggle is a true account.

Being a mental health organisation, we were not only angry, disappointed and shocked to see these comments broadcast live to millions of people, but we continue to be disheartened by ITV’s response. 

We’ve seen the PR statement you’ve issued, and we’ve seen that you’ve been quick to distance yourself from Piers as a freelance journalist.

We’ve also seen that Piers has quit the network, albeit while failing to show any remorse for his words. 

What we haven’t seen from you is an acknowledgement that the comments are wrong, dangerous and lacking in both empathy and understanding. 

More than that, we haven’t seen a clear detailing of what your commitment to mental health looks like in practice. 

We’re huge fans of your Britain Get Talking campaign. We’ve seen firsthand the impact that it’s had and we applaud you for such a wide-reaching and successful initiative. 

However, the message is undermined when representatives of your organisation publicly shame and ridicule someone for doing the very thing the campaign is encouraging; getting people to talk.

What Meghan has said in this interview is incredibly brave, and is a key cultural moment in the conversation around mental health. For that she should be celebrated, not shamed and criticised. 

To shut her down shuts down the conversation on mental health.

To question her experience of mental health struggle questions everyone’s experience of mental health struggle. 

Young children will watch your show, and we run the risk of them beginning to equate feelings and vulnerability with attention-seeking. 

They’ll see the shame and hate that Meghan has received for opening up and they’ll see that the comments haven’t been shut down. And it’s this same shame and stigma that will stop them from opening up if they hit a crisis.

This is about so much more than just Meghan – it’s about everyone who needs support but stays silent because they fear the very reaction that Piers has demonstrated; one of shame, of stigma, and of bullying. A reaction that sees these serious experiences dismissed as lies and attention seeking.

Rates of suicide, both in the UK and globally, remain high. The impact of Coronavirus has been devastating for people’s mental health, and rates of depression have doubled in the UK over the last year.

Many still believe they have no hope or chance of getting through their struggles, and so they choose suicide. 

Given this, and the impact that the last year has had, comments like this are incredibly damaging and do nothing to move forward the conversation around mental health.

In fact, their long-lasting impact sends the conversation backwards. 

Particularly when the people sharing these beliefs are such public figures on such public programmes, with an audience size stretching into the millions. 

They have the power and influence to do a great deal of good, but also an incredible amount of harm. 

We’re requesting a public statement from you stating what you’re going to do to ensure your organisation has a more well-rounded and inclusive stance on mental health. 

What will you be doing to ensure that your representatives, presenters, employees and contractors don’t both hold, and publicly share, outdated and stigamisted views and beliefs on mental health? 

What training will your team receive? 

What support do they receive for their own experiences with mental health, both good and bad?

How will you ensure that mental health is a core part of your philosophy, and not just something that is nodded to in the odd campaign here and there? 

We’ve read the PR statement and we’ve seen you say you’re fully committed to mental health. 

Now, on the behalf of the public, we’re asking what that commitment looks like in practice. 

Our hope is that we can all learn from this together.

Thanks,

The Sanctus Team