BBC defends controversial EastEnders plotline after complaints from viewers
THE BBC has defended an EastEnders storyline in which a bipolar disorder sufferer was being treated cruelly, following complaints from viewers.
They were concerned about a storyline in which Jean Slater - played by Gillian Wright - was being framed for theft, which led other characters in Albert Square to believe she was going off the rails.
The show has previously won an award from mental health charity Mind for the way it has tackled bipolar disorder in the show. The organisation has praised the show's "continued commitment to tackling mental health storylines in a sensitive and realistic way".
Last week the BBC1 show's audience saw Slater exonerated when others learned it was Michael Moon who was engineering her problems.
The BBC today responded to 18 complaints about the story, some of which also suggested the portrayal of the illness was "unrealistic".
The BBC said it worked closely with experts to ensure accuracy.
"It is important to note that Jean Slater is not intended to be representative of everybody with bipolar disorder," it said.
"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.
"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."
The BBC also pointed out that viewers were already aware of the truth: "Michael is a well-established villain, intent on destroying others for his own twisted motives, and the current storyline is completely in-keeping with his character.
"The audience were aware from the start that it was Jean who was telling the truth, even when other characters doubted her."
The BBC said later that it had received more than 100 complaints about the Michael and Jean storyline as a whole. The 18 mentioned earlier had been directed at last Thursday's edition of the programme.
A spokeswoman said: "We have received a total of 107 complaints from over 16 episodes. As every EastEnders viewer will know, this storyline has been running for over a month, with the climax reaching over eight million viewers.
"The storyline was never about Jean's bipolar disorder but about how Michael has manipulated her."