BBC defends EastEnders bipolar storyline


Gillian Wight

The BBC has defended an EastEnders storyline about a character with bipolar disorder after getting complaints that it was cruel and unrealistic.

Eighteen people were unhappy about Jean Slater being framed for theft, leading other characters to think she was going off the rails.

The show said it worked with mental health experts to achieve realism.

EastEnders has previously won an award for its portrayal of bipolar disorder.

The BBC added that Jean's character - played by Gillian Wight - wasn't meant to be representative of all people with the condition.

"We treat all of our characters as individuals, with their own sets of behaviours and opinions, and there's no suggestion that all of Jean's characteristics are linked to her condition," said the BBC.

"We work closely with a number of experts in the mental health field to ensure that we are as accurate as possible when it comes to Jean's bipolar, her medication, the impact it has on her and those around her, and attitudes and prejudices towards her."

Last week, the soap showed Jean hadn't stolen anything and the true culprit was exposed as Michael Moon.

"The audience were aware from the start that it was Jean who was telling the truth, even when other characters doubted her," said the BBC.

In 2010, mental health charity Mind praised the "responsible" way EastEnders dealt with bipolar disorder, giving it the best soap prize at its annual awards.