Calls for Good Morning Britain To Open Up Conversation on Mental Health and Suicide

Lucy Donoughue
By Lucy Donoughue, updated on May 13, 2019

An interview on ITV’s morning breakfast show Good Morning Britain, has led to calls for a wider conversation around mental health and the impact awareness campaigns can have on young people

The segment, led by Good Morning Britain co-hosts Susanna Reid and Piers Morgan on the subject of instagram and the possibility of hiding ‘likes’, quickly moved towards a conversation regarding how social media can have a negative impact on mental health in its current form, for some young users.

In an exchange that followed between guest speaker Mental Health Advocate Danny Bowman and Piers Morgan on mental health challenges and the need for awareness, Piers claimed; "There’s a new report coming out saying suicide rates among young people, in this country, have rocketed in the last year. I don't think that it’s a coincidence that the more we talk about this stuff on the airwaves actually, that there's a danger of people being sucked into that mindset.

"I think we need to teach mental strength and we need to teach kids to toughen up a bit. Life is about actually, the real world."

His opinions were partly countered by Susannah Reid, who pointed out that discussions around mental health and social media could lead to greater understanding about why young people who are struggling may feel the way they do, with Piers interrupting and continuing to reassert the need for mental resilience, later mockingly referencing "poor triggered Timmy".

Papyrus, the leading Charity for young suicide prevention, commented upon Piers' suggestion that more discussion around suicide could prompt an increase in suicidal teens. Ged Flynn, CEO said: "There is no evidence that supports a claim that if we talk about mental health and suicide then people are more likely to suffer. On the contrary, the more we talk about these issues, the more we create safety for people to join that conversation. Young people who are having thoughts of suicide need to know they belong to a society which will not shun them but will listen to them."

It Matters, a national movement of young people using creative mediums to address mental health, have also spoken out about Piers' assertions and have subsequently contacted Good Morning Britain’s Editor Neil Thompson, requesting the right to reply on the highly popular breakfast show.

ItMatters' concerns focus around the insinuation that an increase in suicide rates is due to more dicussions about mental health taking place, and the assertion that children being taught to “toughen up” could address this crisis.

Mr Morgan’s poor choice of words such as to ‘toughen up’, along with his previous comments to ‘man up’, is problematic. Such rhetoric often stops young men in particular from opening up about their mental health problems/suicidal thoughts.

"Raising visibility on suicide and mental health in a constructive way is not why our generation is enduring a mental health and suicide crisis," their statement reads. "Nor does it encourage young people to think in that ‘mindset’. We agree with Mr Morgan that teaching resilience is very important. However, mental health campaigners have long promoted and advocated for resilience and wellbeing to be taught in schools.

"It would be misleading to suggest that this is not already happening in many schools. Mr Morgan’s poor choice of words such as to ‘toughen up’, along with his previous comments to ‘man up’, is problematic. Such rhetoric often stops young men in particular from opening up about their mental health problems/suicidal thoughts."

"To address this, we have called for Good Morning Britain to have us, the very young people affected by this crisis, respectfully heard on the show. We would like to thank all those who have written to ITV, encouraging this to happen. Unfortunately, the Editor Neil Thompson, Piers Morgan and all those involved in the production of Good Morning Britain have remained silent as to whether they will let young people on their show."

ITV were approached for a comment regarding their commitment to broadening the conversation around mental health awareness as a major national broadcaster, their response to ItMatters as well as their corporate policy on mental health awareness training, support and understanding of mental health discrimination.

In regards to the segment on Good Morning Britain, a spokesperson said; "GMB is a topical news programme and features all opinions and sides of the debate.

As always, these were Piers' own personally held views on mental resilience, amongst others surrounding mental health and mental illness which are regularly debated and discussed on the show

"As always, these were Piers' own personally held views on mental resilience, amongst others surrounding mental health and mental illness which are regularly debated and discussed on the show. His stance on mental resilience is regularly challenged by his co host Susanna Reid as it was in relation to this item on the internet.

"During the last five years, Good Morning Britain has championed mental health causes including our 1 Million Minutes initiative - to help those affected by the silent epidemic of loneliness. We have showcased a wide variety of voices with countless people speaking powerfully about their own, personal mental health stories involving depression, post-natal depression, eating disorders, veterans with mental health concerns, self-harm, anxiety, children with depression. We believe this coverage has encouraged an on-going conversation and broadened the debate.

"ITV has worked with a number of charities including CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) on Project 84 and with Samaritans and CALM on Coronation Street, tackling the issue of male suicide. ITV will also be supporting Mental Health Awareness Week across a range of programmes in its schedule."

Happiful have yet to recieve a response regarding the request from ItMatters on corporate policy around mental health awareness and education at ITV.

Update - 13 May

ItMatters spoke with Happiful regarding the above statement from GMB, noting "Good Morning Britain has failed to challenge Mr Morgan's views and provide accurate information for viewers with regard to this urgent public health matter.

"Even when those in the programme attempted to address Mr Morgan's damaging and irresponsible assertions, they could not adequately address it as he would talk over them.

"There has been little commentary or effort from GMB to address Mr Morgan's irresponsible and potentially misleading comments. Given that ITV believe in robust discussion and debate, it is especially confusing that GMB have not given any indication as to whether they will let us, as young people speak for ourselves on the show. We have yet to hear from them regarding the issues raised in our statement.

We understand that many people have already written to Ofcom, believing that GMB has breached the broadcasting code. We sincerely hope that they can rectify this matter before further action is taken."

Further requests for dicussion

Good Morning Britain's presenter Piers Morgan commented on twitter today, the first day of Mental Health Awareness Week, and called for dicussions about mental strength and resilience rather than "celebrity self-pitying ‘woe is me’ wallowing"

A number of mental health professionals and advocates have reached out to Piers and ITV, requesting further discussions around the subject of mental health and illness but there has been no response as yet.

If you are a young person who is looking for help or you are experiencing suicidal thoughts please call Papyrus' Hopeline on 0800 068 4141, or email [email protected]. You can also call the Samaritans 24-hours a day on 116 123 or email [email protected].

Help is available and you are not alone.

Watch the full Good Morning Britain interview here

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