Former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson is to chair ITV’s new Mental Health Advisory Group, created following the deaths of participants of the Jeremy Kyle Show and Love Island.
Ms Davidson – who is still an MSP in the Scottish Parliament after quitting as leader partly due to being “hopelessly conflicted over Brexit” – has taken up the unpaid role designed to protect the mental wellbeing of participants and audiences on ITV shows.
A former BBC journalist, Ms Davidson said she is “excited” to chair the mental health group which will advise both ITV and STV about the production of shows and which will “have a huge role in setting the broadcaster’s overall mental health strategy”.
Following the announcement, Ms Davidson said: “Television can have a huge impact on people’s lives and on the life of the nation. Creating a culture which supports the mental health of one another is so important and ITV and STV’s position means they can make a real difference in working towards this goal.
“I’m excited to be involved in ITV and STV’s efforts to bring mental wellbeing to the centre of our national conversation. It is so important to talk.
“The advisory group will have a huge role in setting the broadcasters’ overall mental health strategy and I look forward to working with ITV and STV to make a genuine difference to people’s lives.”
She added: “For far too long, Scotland has failed to talk enough about the importance of mental health.
“Putting it at the top of the national agenda is something we can all get behind, no matter our political allegiance.
“It is a subject with a particular personal resonance and I hope to champion that cause over the coming months and years.”
Ms Davidson has previously spoken out about being diagnosed with clinical depression as a teenager.
The Mental Health Advisory Group, the start of a five-year partnership with mental health charity Mind, is due to meet four times a year to bring ideas, feedback and provide practical advice about the broadcasters’ shows.
ITV CEO Carolyn McCall said: “Ruth’s background in media and politics and her courage to talk publicly about mental health in her own life, make her absolutely the right person to chair ITV’s Mental Health Advisory Group.
“Ruth will bring energy, passion and judgment to a hugely important role and alongside the new members we’re announcing today, Paul Farmer from Mind, Emma Thomas from YoungMinds and Billy Watson from SAMH, will help ITV and STV to ensure we deliver on our top priority: caring for the mental health and wellness of our own people, those who make and take part in our programmes and, of course, the millions of people who watch our programmes.”
Simon Pitts, CEO of STV, added: “Mental wellness is a priority for us at STV and we are delighted to be partnering with ITV to ensure that mental wellbeing becomes part of everyone’s everyday lives and culture.”
ITV cancelled the Jeremy Kyle Show after the death of participant Steve Dymond, who reportedly failed a lie-detector test, and announced it would be offering mental health advice, therapy, social media training and financial advice following the death of Love Island contestant Mike Thalassitis.