The BBC has defended EastEnders’ storyline about bipolar disorder sufferer Jean Slater following complaints from viewers.
Many complainants were concerned about a storyline in which Jean, played by Gillian Wright, was framed for theft, which led other characters in Albert Square to believe she was going off the rails.
EastEnders has previously been praised for the way it tackles mental illness on the show, winning an award from mental health charity MIND. The organisation has praised the show’s ‘continued commitment to tackling mental health storylines in a sensitive and realistic way’.
The BBC said it had received more than 100 complaints about the Michael and Jean storyline overall. It said it worked closely with experts to ensure accuracy, on how he manipulated her actions.
An EastEnders spokesperson said: “It is important to note that Jean Slater is not intended to be representative of everybody with bipolar disorder.”
“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.”
They added: “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 already knew 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.”