BBC Action Line advice calls double after mental health focus


This year, the BBC Action Line received just over 1,039,000 visits online or calls to its support information services in 2019, that’s more than double the 400,000 received in 2018.

Sexual abuse, emotional distress and mental health related issues were the most recurring audience requests, the broadcaster said.

The BBC Action Line provides supporting information for viewers and listeners affected by issues addressed in BBC programmes. This includes factual documentaries, BBC dramas or awareness campaigns.

The BBC runs a number of permanent information lines for some issues, including mental health, eating disorders, and domestic abuse/violence.

These topics can be hard for people to discuss, especially if people don’t know how to broach the subject. Luckily the conversation surrounding mental health is larger with more help available to those who need it.

There are various ways in which people can reach out for aid with many treatments now accessible for those who are in need, this includes mental health clinics, medications, and in some cases the use of CBD vape liquid for those who want to try alternative treatments for a period of time.

This will need to be discussed with a doctor first to make sure it can be administered if available.

Action Line mental health

Throughout 2019 there was a concerted focus on mental health awareness and well-being in BBC factual content through the BBC’s Mental Health season, with the Mental Health Action Line receiving 83,122 total online visits and calls.

The BBC’s Mental Health season included three highly personal films: Nadiya Hussain: Anxiety And Me for BBC One and on BBC Two, Alastair Campbell: Depression And Me and David Harewood: Psychosis And Me.

Also on BBC Two, Louis Theroux tackled the subject of postpartum psychosis in Mothers On The Edge.

“The BBC has a long commitment to tackling mental health issues in our programmes”, Alison Kirkham, Controller, Factual Commissioning said.

“The volume of calls and visits to the BBC Action Line – as well as the increase in contacts received by mental health charities – shows the impact of these films and highlights just how important it is to raise awareness and bring the conversation out into the open.”

Little Mix

Jesy Nelson from girl-group Little Mix also sparked national debate about cyber-bullying and social media abuse in her BBC Three documentary Jesy Nelson: Odd One Out.

It broke BBC Three viewing records for a factual title with 2.73 million requests on iPlayer to date. We’ve added a clip from the film below as we firmly believe Jesy is a beautiful, formidable and accomplished woman, who has already changed and saved countless lives by talking openly about the frankly appalling abuse she has received on social media.

Jesy’s story also aired on BBC One and was watched by 3.25 million individuals, including nearly 1 million 16-34 year olds.

The series generated just over 8,000 visits to the Action Line support service.

Addiction, bullying and eating issues

Other action lines for mental health associated issues such as addiction, bullying and eating disorders also saw a rise in online visits and calls, with 39,241, 9,392 and 13,428 contacts respectively.

The BBC Action Line for emotional distress also saw a huge spike in visits, with 148,185 total visits and calls. Storylines in Holby City and human interest features on BBC Breakfast, Ambulance and Louis Theroux’s Altered States provoked engagement.

There was also a steep rise in the numbers of people accessing the BBC Action Line for information or advice about sexual abuse/violence, with 185,767 people visiting the service, with spikes during programmes such as: River City, Forensics: The Real CSI, Teenage Kicks and The Untold.

Sexual abuse awareness

Through these programmes, the BBC is trying to make its audience more aware of the issues that people may be experiencing and also how they can help others and where they can go if they themselves are struggling.

Keith Jones, Head of Editorial & Complaints, Audience Services said: “These programmes and figures show what important public services our Action Lines are.

“They’re a partnership with the many organisations which exist to support those with issues highlighted in our coverage. We’re so grateful to them for their involvement and that we can offer viewers and listeners support about these important, often distressing subjects.”

Internally, the BBC said it is also making great strides in fostering an inclusive, welcoming and open environment for staff to share their experiences and give them the tools and support they need to succeed.

The BBC’s Open Up awareness campaign has made mental health a pertinent topic for staff and management alike, whilst a whole week of events led by BBC talent and staff alike for Wellbeing Live in October helped drive the conversation further.

In addition, as part of the BBC’s wider approach to mental health, the Mental Health First Aid programme, which has been rolled out across the BBC since August 2014, has trained over 1,000 Mental Health First Aiders, with 534 new staff completing the qualification across 39 courses this year.