Sexual abuse and mental health issues lead to record demand for BBC helpline

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A helpline for viewers affected by issues with BBC programming saw record demand in 2021, driven by sexual abuse and mental health issues.

BBC Action Line received over 1.2 million calls and visits online this year, 170,000 more than in 2020.

There were over 209,000 requests for help with sexual abuse issues, representing over one-sixth of total contacts.

Mental health and self-harm issues, suicide and racism have also prompted large numbers of viewers to make contact, the BBC said.

The action line provides information and support to viewers and listeners of BBC programs, including dramas, documentaries and awareness campaigns.

Nick Mason, BBC Hearing Services Manager, said: “Our second pandemic year has not seen a relaxation of contact with the Line of Action, particularly with regard to mental health, encouraged by a range of compelling storylines and campaigns on BBC channels.

“We will continue to provide essential support and information in 2022 and beyond. “

In February, the BBC launched Headroom – an online resource on mental health in the aftermath of the pandemic – comprising a series of programs that have garnered more than 58,000 visits to the action line’s support page.

A range of programs covering suicide, bereavement and emotional distress, including Gary Speed: 10 Years On, generated more than 120,900 visits and calls for help.

Roman Kemp documentary drew more than 10,000 audience visits (Phil Sharp / BBC)

The BBC’s line of action against racism and racist hate crimes, launched at the end of 2020, has received more than 23,000 visits – prompted by programs such as Leigh-Anne: Race, Pop & Power and Anton Ferdinand: Football, Racism & Me.

Other programs that made viewers ask for help included:

– A longstanding history in Holby City of child sexual abuse, which has led to over 49,000 hits to the support page to date.

– Roman Kemp: Our Silent Emergency, which explored the mental health and suicide crisis affecting young men and garnered more than 10,000 visits.

– The Archers of Radio 4, which supported a storyline raising issues of alcoholism and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in May 2021, causing more than 6,000 hits on the support page.

The BBC Action Line can be accessed at www.bbc.co.uk/actionline.

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