Paul Whitehouse’s recent show Nurse shone a light on the world of psychiatric care and more generally mental health, following the titular character’s experiences as an overstretched mental health health worker, looking after patients who are predominantly all played by Whitehouse. This followed up Help, where Whitehouse played the part of each individual patient seeing a psychotherapist, and Happiness, dramatising a voiceover artists’s attempt to deal with his wife’s death.
The show, a television production of the popular and critically acclaimed Radio 4 show, is designed to take a light hearted look at this often overlooked aspect of society, but also deal with and bring these big issues to the forefront of the public. By applying humour mental health issues can be normalised, and the respect, care and attention with which the show deals with these issues ensures that mental health is neither mocked nor trivialised.
It is clear not only from his television repertoire that Whitehouse is passionate about mental health, but in numerous interviews Whitehouse has shown sympathy for the plight of those who need help, but cannot receive it due to the brutal cuts which services have undergone. Whitehouse is also acutely aware of the ongoing lip service being paid to mental health in the run up to the election, but is not allowing this to form a smokescreen to cover up what needs to be done.
“Politicians are all jumping out and waving their mental-health flags now. It’s obviously on the agenda,” says Whitehouse.
“During the conference season, Nick Clegg was talking about mental health as a major issue. That’s especially true with Alzheimer’s, as people are living so much longer now. We see evidence of mental health issues more and more in our daily lives. I know that everyone is fighting for every penny of government finance, but we need more money to deal with the mental health problems we face. It’s not the most glamorous of causes, but it’s not going to go away.”
With an attitude like this and a commitment to engage in responsible programming, it is very uplifting to think that there will be another series which can have an important impact in the battle to reduce the stigma that is currently surround mental health. Long may it continue.