Chris Packham

Promoting Responsible Language: Chris Packham's conversation with PTSD UK

At PTSD UK, a significant aspect of our mission revolves around increasing awareness of PTSD and C-PTSD, including their causes and symptoms. In the UK, it’s estimated that 4 in 100 people experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in any given week, amounting to approximately 2,612,000 people. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure accurate information is circulated and to ensure we can cultivate a supportive understanding among people throughout the UK.

In our ongoing efforts, we strongly believe it’s crucial to confront and address the inaccurate, incorrect, or careless perceptions surrounding PTSD. Spreading misinformation or treating PTSD as a punchline in jokes not only perpetuates stigma but also insensitively downplays the debilitating symptoms that can result in family issues, unemployment, physical health complications, self-harm, homelessness, substance abuse, and suicide.

Throughout the past year, we have proactively engaged with various celebrities and media outlets, such as the BBC, Channel 4’s Junior Bake Off and ITV’s I’m a Celebrity, to raise awareness about instances where the term “PTSD” was used in a flippant manner or as a punchline in jokes. Our aim has been to initiate productive conversations and nurture understanding, to encourage responsible usage of language surrounding PTSD.

Regrettably, we have encountered situations where our requests for respect, appropriateness, and sensitivity when using PTSD in such contexts have been disregarded, dismissed, or simply responded to with statements like “your comments have been duly noted and shared with the relevant teams.” It is disheartening to experience these reactions, as our intention is to simply foster a deeper understanding and encourage responsible language usage.

Recently, we reached out to the Wildlife TV presenter, author and renowned conservationist, Chris Packham, regarding a comment he made during Springwatch that referenced PTSD in an inappropriate manner. While we appreciate that the comment was intended to be a joke, we felt it was important to address the issue. We respectfully highlighted to Chris and his team that the comment was inappropriate and had the potential to trivialise the condition and perpetuating stigma surrounding a profoundly serious and debilitating disorder.

We very much appreciated that Chris’s team responded willingly to express his interest in discussing the comment made. This gesture, which we felt demonstrated a genuine commitment to open dialogue, understanding, and collaboration felt like a huge step forward and we gladly arranged a conversation between Chris and our CEO and Founder, Jacqui.

Jacqui had a very meaningful conversation with Chris to address the realities of PTSD and bring attention to our concerns regarding the comment. It was heartening to hear Chris’s remarkable receptiveness, as he genuinely understood that our intention was not to reprimand but to foster a constructive dialogue, promoting accurate and sensitive comprehension of PTSD, particularly among public figures.

During their conversation, Jacqui and Chris discussed the power of social change in relation to increased understanding of PTSD, the inappropriateness of such comments, and the importance of raising awareness about the impact of PTSD on individuals. They discussed how influential figures like presenters or characters in TV and films play a significant role in shaping public perception. Recognising this, Chris wholeheartedly welcomed our contact and sincerely apologised for the comment.

Chris said, “I acknowledge and appreciate that what I said was glib, fripperous and entirely inappropriate and I’m very grateful that this was raised with me by PTSD UK, I very much understand the important and serious nature of PTSD and the work PTSD UK does.

Although our use of language evolves over time, it’s important that we’re all using terminology correctly, and so I apologise for the inappropriate comment I made. Over the years I’ve worked to support mental health issues and so very much understand how vital it is that we’re using the correct terminology and vernacular, so am grateful to be able to improve my understanding and have this highlighted to me.

At PTSD UK, we hold a fundamental belief in treating others with respect and empathy, just as we would like to be treated. As such, we kindly ask our supporters to contact us if they encounter instances on TV, radio, or film where PTSD is inaccurately, unhelpfully, or harmfully depicted. We feel a collective voice that promotes understanding, instead of engaging in personal online attacks or disparaging comments, will be far more productive and helpful. Directing our energy towards a constructive dialogue is far more effective than individual outbursts of anger and frustration.

We understand that PTSD and C-PTSD are still misunderstood conditions, and it is not uncommon for misinformation to prevail in the media and general population. We hold no judgment when someone lacks sufficient knowledge on these matters. Our mission is to alleviate this misunderstanding and provide support. In the meantime, we all make mistakes, and we are committed to learning and growing together.

We want to express our heartfelt appreciation for Chris’s remarkable openness, receptivity, and willingness to actively participate in this crucial discussion. This meaningful engagement represents a significant stride forward in our collective efforts to drive awareness and understanding. While we do wish that others we’ve contacted would approach similar situations with the same level of respect, we firmly believe that change is on the horizon. We are unwavering in our commitment to our mission, persistently advocating for empathy, compassion, and substantive transformation. Despite the challenges we face, our resolve remains steadfast as we work tirelessly towards creating a more compassionate and informed society.

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It is possible for PTSD to be successfully treated many years after the traumatic event occurred, which means it is never too late to seek help. For some, the first step may be watchful waiting, then exploring therapeutic options such as individual or group therapy – but the main treatment options in the UK are psychological treatments such as Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprogramming (EMDR) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

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