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Sexual abuse and mental health concerns drive record demand for BBC helpline

BBC Action Line received more than 1.2 million calls and online visits in 2021.

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The helpline provides information and support for viewers and listeners of BBC programmes (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

The helpline provides information and support for viewers and listeners of BBC programmes (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

The helpline provides information and support for viewers and listeners of BBC programmes (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

A helpline for viewers affected by issues in BBC programmes has seen record demand in 2021, driven by sexual abuse and mental health concerns.

BBC Action Line received more than 1.2 million calls and online visits this year – up 170,000 from 2020.

There were more than 209,000 requests for support in relation to sexual abuse issues, accounting for more than a sixth of the total contacts.

Our second pandemic year has not seen a let-up in contacts to the Action Line, particularly about mental health, encouraged by a range of compelling storylines and campaigns across BBC channelsNick Mason, BBC Audience Services

Issues around mental health and self-harm, suicide and racism also prompted a high number of viewers to get in touch, the BBC said.

The Action Line provides information and support for viewers and listeners of BBC programmes including dramas, documentaries and awareness campaigns.

Nick Mason, head of BBC Audience Services, said: “Our second pandemic year has not seen a let-up in contacts to the Action Line, particularly about mental health, encouraged by a range of compelling storylines and campaigns across BBC channels.

“We will continue to offer vital support and information in 2022 and beyond.”

In February, the BBC launched Headroom – an online mental health resource as a result of the pandemic – including a series of programmes which prompted more than 58,000 visits to the Action Line support page.

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

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A documentary by Roman Kemp prompted more than 10,000 visits to the helpine (Phil Sharp/BBC)

A documentary by Roman Kemp prompted more than 10,000 visits to the helpine (Phil Sharp/BBC)

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A documentary by Roman Kemp prompted more than 10,000 visits to the helpine (Phil Sharp/BBC)

The BBC’s Action Line for racism and racist hate-crime, which launched late in 2020, has received more than 23,000 visits – prompted by programmes such as Leigh-Anne: Race, Pop & Power, and Anton Ferdinand: Football, Racism & Me.

More programmes that prompted viewers to seek support included:

– A long-running Holby City storyline on child sexual abuse, which led to more than 49,000 visits to the support page to date.

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

– Radio 4’s The Archers, which supported a storyline raising issues of alcoholism and Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders in May 2021, prompting more than 6,000 visits to the support page.

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

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