How My Mad Fat Diary Reduced Mental Health Stigma


When I first saw the adverts for My Mad Fat Diary and Derek I was extremely dubious about the pair of them. My Mad Fat Diary was advertised as a programme much like Skins but with a 'mad fat' girl as the main character. Derek was advertised as Ricky Gervais almost dribbling his chin reached out so far and Karl Pilkington in a wig. Both of these programmes could have gone either way when it came to the tough issue of mental health and I was worried they would be another clueless shot at trying to make this topic light hearted.

I was all ready to make a disapproving post about the both of them, telling the world that they shouldn't look at mental health disorders in that light. Imagine my surprise when I found myself enjoying both of the programmes and relating to parts from each.

Firstly, My Mad Fat Diary, of which the final episode airs on Monday 18 February . We have followed Rae Earl (Sharon Rooney) from her leaving the psychiatric ward she had spent three months in and trying to get on with her life as a 16 year old in the 90s. I'll quickly touch on the soundtrack as anyone that lived through the 90s will enjoy the upbeat hits from Prodigy and the way Radiohead sneaks in when Rae is going through tougher moments in her life. The music just helps to set the scene for this rollercoaster of emotions which is partly due to her mental health disorder, partly due to her being overweight and partly just because she is a 16 year old girl trying to get on with her life. One of the most spectacular characters is Kester (Ian Hart), her counsellor, who cleverly touches on Rae's instability away from her friends and family. You also have her best friend from the hospital Tix (Sophie Wright), who clearly suffers from an eating disorder of some kind and whose story was beautifully covered in the last episode, to tie in nicely with Eating Disorders Awareness Week. What makes this programme even more special is that Rae Earl is a real person (she is, I've spoken to her on Twitter) and these are her stories that she felt brave enough to tell the world. The team behind the show such as the wonderful Tom Bidwell and E4 itself should be extremely proud that they have managed to bring this woman's teenage years to life on screen.

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