Huw Edwards on depression: BBC ‘didn’t want people to think there’s a nutter reading the news’

BBC News Huw Edwards - BBC
BBC News Huw Edwards – BBC

Huw Edwards has revealed he was met with “deep freeze silence” after he told the BBC he suffered from depression.

The veteran broadcaster, who opened up publicly about his struggle with his mental health over the last 20 years, said a colleague had told him the corporation “really didn’t want people to think there’s a nutter reading the 10 o’clock news”.

He said at first the BBC was “nervous”, but it later became more supportive and many newsroom colleagues confided they had also been dealing with mental health issues.

The 60-year-old Welsh journalist was asked about his struggle with depression on the latest ‘Fortunately…with Fi and Jane’ podcast after previously revealing it had left him “bedridden” in a documentary in December.

When asked how the BBC treated him after the revelation, he said: “With a kind of deep freeze silence to start with, which is always the kind of way the organisation does.

“People don’t understand what the BBC’s like. It can be a very sympathetic and supportive organisation. It can be not that.”

He added: “It’s a very bureaucratic organisation. So it’s like John Sergeant used to tell me many years ago at Westminster, ‘Never forget the BBC’s a bureaucracy and you can’t expect it to have a heart in one sense because it functions as a bureaucracy’.”

The father-of-five, who presented the BBC’s 2022 local election coverage on Thursday, revealed the broadcaster was “rather nervous” about the news, saying: “One of my colleagues used a phrase which I can use because I was at the receiving end of it and it’s not meant to cause offence in any way.

“One of them said to me ‘Well, you know, the BBC doesn’t really want people to think there’s a nutter reading the 10 o’clock news’.”

“But that’s actually quite a good insight into the way some people still perceive these issues. That was said three years ago,” he added.

Colleagues shared their own struggles

The News at 10 presenter previously revealed that he has suffered from depression since 2002, but told BBC journalists Jane Garvey and Fi Glover that “it’s not as bad as it was”.

Asked if he finds it easier to talk about depression now that it is more publicly discussed, Edwards said: “I went 20 years without talking about it, so yes is the answer to that.

“I felt it was complete hypocrisy on my part to be supporting organisations like The Shaw Mind Foundation or Mind or other mental health charities, which I did because I was clearly interested and had a vested interest, when not saying to people why. I just thought it was wrong.”

He said that he was “taken aback by the response” and that it had been “quite overwhelming”, adding: “Clearly there are lots of people out there who are struggling with mental health issues and they don’t really talk about it, especially men actually.

“It was interesting as well for me in the newsroom how many colleagues, male and female, and young colleagues, came up to me and said ‘I was a bit surprised that you said that, and actually I’ve been dealing with my own stuff for the last few years’.

“I had no idea. You work with people. You think you know them, you don’t really, because you don’t share these things. I felt it was quite a useful thing.”

No intention of leaving broadcaster

Edwards said he still enjoys his work and has no intention of leaving despite his partial criticisms of the BBC’s initial reaction to his honesty.

He said: “I think the truth is that – given what I’ve just said about the BBC – it really isn’t my decision. Clearly I could walk out if I wanted out if I wanted to.

“But I feel that as long as I’m enjoying doing the job, hopefully I can do it.

“If I feel that I’m no longer enjoying it, or that I’m wanting a change, and sometimes you do feel that, I’ll think about moving on.”

A younger Huw Edwards in Westminster
A younger Huw Edwards in Westminster

Highlights of his 37-year-career have included presenting BBC Six O’Clock News for just under four years, covering major royal events such as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and Prince Philip’s funeral – and stepping up as lead presenter for the 2019 general election coverage.

A BBC spokesperson said: “The welfare and mental health of our staff is of paramount importance and we have a wide range of measures in place to support them.

“In News and across the BBC, staff are offered wellbeing support, including the option of counselling. They can access our Employee Assistance Programme 24/7, from anywhere in the world, and we also have trained Mental Health First Aiders inside many teams.”

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