Panorama (BBC for BBC1) and West Eye View: Bitter Pill (A Carlton Production for the West of England (HTV West) are celebrating wins at the Mental Health Media Awards 2003, for their powerful documentaries about the controversial SSRI anti-depressant drug, Seroxat.
The annual Mental Health Media Awards — now in their 10th year — recognise the best in reporting and portrayals of mental health issues in the broadcast media.
'Panorama: The Secrets of Seroxat' and 'Seroxat: Emails from the Edge' (BBC for BBC 1) received a special Public Impact award from Mental Health Media. The documentaries showed just how powerful the voice of mental health service users and survivors can be, fuelling furious public and media debate whilst demonstrating how broadcasters can both sensitively and successfully reach out and touch the lives of the wider public.
Investigative, challenging and powerful, the programmes were considered by judges to have potentially changed lives, and crucially, contained the testimonies of the people who had responded to the Panorama team following the broadcast of the 'The Secrets of Seroxat' in their thousands.
The controversy surrounding Seroxat was also the subject of West Eye View: Bitter Pill (A Carlton Production for the West of England (HTV West) which scooped the prize in the TV Documentary category. This outstanding documentary was praised by judges for its "empowering and influential" exposé of the problems people in the West of England had experienced whilst taking or withdrawing from Seroxat. Giving a local voice to a national issue, West Eye View: Bitter Pill was described by one judge as "vindication for all of those who had experienced difficulties whilst withdrawing from Seroxat, but were told that the drug and the subsequent symptoms were unrelated".
Mark Ashton, Series Producer commented: "I'm grateful to HTV West for their sensible and mature approach to current affairs broadcasting, giving their producers the opportunity to make articulate and conscientious programmes about issues of public importance and in winning this award, its clear that their commitment has paid off. When West Eye View: Bitter Pill was broadcast, we received huge mailbags of correspondence from viewers wanting to know more about the potential side-effects and withdrawal problems of Seroxat. These were real people, with real jobs, who after having gone to their GP showing symptoms of depression or anxiety, had walked out with a packet of Seroxat, when primarily, they needed advice, or at the very least deserved honest and explicit information about the drug they were about to take".