Junior Bake Off – Channel 4

Open letter to Channel 4 - Junior Bake Off PTSD 'joke'

This open letter, although addressed in this instance to Channel 4 (and sent directly to them too), is a reminder of the care and attention that needs to be taken by everyone when talking about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and it’s debilitating symptoms – they are not a punchline in a joke, especially on a TV show aimed at children.   

Dear Channel 4,

We’re writing to you to address the comment made in episode 7 of the current ‘Junior Bake Off’ season surrounding PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

To be specific, we’d like to highlight our issue with the comment made by Liam Charles when speaking to Ravneet Gill in which he responded to the statement ‘I know that you had a tough time making these in the tent’ with ‘Post Traumatic Fortune Cookie Disorder’ while making a very overdramatic ‘pained’ face.

There is little doubt that this comment was made in jest, but PTSD is not funny, and it’s not a subject to take lightly. It’s a serious and debilitating condition.

PTSD is a condition which some people develop after experiencing a trauma in their life such as a road traffic accident, bereavement, personal assault, natural disaster, miscarriage, traumatic childbirth, being bullied, sexual violence, childhood abuse, domestic abuse or fire.

It’s estimated that in any given week in the UK, 4 in 100 people have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – this equates to 2,612,000 people in the UK.

Using PTSD as a punchline in a joke not only further stigmatises the reality of the condition, but it also incorrectly and unhelpfully desensitises people to the debilitating symptoms that can lead to family problems, unemployment, physical health issues, self-harm, homelessness, alcohol and drug addiction, and ultimately suicide.

Jokes like this, using PTSD as part of the gag are not only unnecessary, but can also be incredibly damaging to those affected by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – and we are astounded and frankly horrified that not only was this joke approved in the edit of the show, but specifically in a show aimed at children. We need to raise the next generation to be respectful and compassionate towards people with mental health issues. This strongly goes against this.

Not only that, but 2 winners of Great British Bake Off have spoken publicly about suffering from PTSD themselves. Nadiya Hussain bravely revealed how she developed PTSD and planned to take her own life after she was sexually assaulted by a family member at the age of 5. Candice Brown was left with PTSD after an incident in hospital several years ago. It was so distressing that she still can’t explicitly discuss what happened.

To be clear on our position, this isn’t about so-called ‘snowflake culture’ or not being able to take a joke, this is about equality and not perpetuating the lack of understanding and stigma surrounding mental health conditions. Equality, understanding and ensuring people feel they can speak up when they’re struggling, without fear of ridicule or ‘quips’ about their condition, is something we need to address, so we can save lives. Children, in particular, may feel discouraged from seeking help if they think that their experiences will be dismissed or mocked. By creating a culture of understanding and support around mental health, children will feel more comfortable coming forward and seeking help when they need it so they can receive the support they need to heal and thrive – using jokes like you did, not only takes us further away from that place, but it adds to the weight, pain and stigma surrounding mental health issues.

We appreciate Liam’s script is likely written by a third party, so are not making assumptions, or directing this at any particular people, but this was an edited show, presumably seen by a number of people before it was aired – didn’t anybody think perhaps it wasn’t appropriate?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter, and understand how you’re committed to doing better and would love to discuss this further.

Yours,

Jacqui Suttie

PTSD survivor and Founder & CEO of PTSD UK

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