Ross Kemp calls for ending ‘negative stereotype’ of veterans with PTSD on TV
Actor and broadcaster Ross Kemp has denounced the “negative portrayal” in dramas of soldiers with mental health issues. The 57-year-old said stereotyping on TV, in movies and in the wider media had a profound effect on current and former members of the armed forces, especially those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Kemp, who became a household name playing EastEnders hardman Grant Mitchell, who suffered from PTSD, is backing a campaign by military charity Help for Heroes to change the portrayal of veterans on screen. He told the PA news agency: ‘(The stereotypes) have a real negative impact on people who have served their country.
“They’re brave enough to come forward and admit they have a problem, which is often very difficult for people. Drama needs drama, obviously, otherwise it’s not interesting.
“But there seems to be an ongoing representation of service staff having mental health issues that often lead to negative outcomes. Help for Heroes said it does not expect TV programs and movies to be completely devoid of dramatic moments involving members of the armed forces, but rather to provide context by using “trigger warnings” when there is an exaggerated portrayal of veterans’ mental health, and using a “wider and more representative range” of scenarios.
Kemp, who won the Bafta for Best Factual Series for Ross Kemp On Gangs in 2006, said: “Please don’t overlook these people. As soon as you see PTSD, there’s an image that automatically forms in your head of someone hiding under the bed or camouflaged at night, and that’s not the truth – it’s an image that has been perpetuated in dramas.
“And we want to get away from that and show you what the reality is, which is that people who suffer from and deal with mental health issues are highly valued members of society.” Veterans have reported struggling to secure mortgages, being overlooked for civilian jobs and even being kicked out of dating sites after revealing they were diagnosed with PTSD.
Jay Saunders, a former Royal Navy lieutenant commander with PTSD, described the characterization of servicemen as “lazy stereotypes”. The 53-year-old, from Gosport in Hampshire, said: ‘The general public when they hear about PTSD and add ‘veteran’ the first thing they think of is violence.
“My PTSD came from humanitarian aid. I was not even armed (during a deployment in Sierra Leone). “But the etiquette is ‘You’re military, so you killed, and when you go back you’re going to kill again’.”
He said PTSD has actually brought unexpected benefits, including giving him greater empathy and forming an archery community for injured and sick veterans. Trevor Cowell, 39, who served in units such as the Royal Army Medical Corps for almost two decades in the army, said: “All you want is for people to see you in a light. positive, because you always feel like you represent your cap badge.
“But the negative portrayal encourages you to be even more insular because if that’s what people automatically think about PTSD then you don’t want to discuss it with people. If you say you’ve been in a car accident and you have PTSD, I think people treat you more sympathetically than if you have PTSD because you’re in the forces, and I’d like that idea fake change.