Ant and Dec relaunch ITV mental health campaign to combat coronavirus

Ant and Dec have relaunched ITV’s mental wellness campaign in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Britain Get Talking, a riff on Britain’s Got Talent, aims to improve the mental or physical health of some 10 million people, and is supported by mental health charities Mind and YoungMinds.

The presenting duo announced the initiative’s return during Saturday Night Takeaway, which aired without a studio audience for the first time.

In a video message from their empty studio, Declan Donnelly said: “Chances are you have just watched the show at home, a place we are all going to be spending a bit more time over the next few weeks.

Ant McPartlin added: “More of us will be apart or by ourselves than ever before, and it is going to be harder for some of us than it is for others.”

Donnelly continued: “Which is why it is more important than ever that we keep talking. Just hearing someone’s voice has been shown to reduce anxiety and distress.”

McPartlin said: “So if there is someone you can’t be with right now, pick up the phone and show them you care. Reach out to the ones who need it most.”

They were greeted by near silence as they arrived for the show, running down the aisle stairs and high-fiving the air above the empty seats.

Donnelly said it was “a little bit weird” but praised the “smaller than usual but still amazing crew” for ensuring the show went ahead.

Comedian Joel Dommett, who was the evening’s guest announcer, was seen wiping the microphone with an antibacterial wipe.

And Olly Murs ended the programme with an impassioned performance, accompanied by footage of people dancing along at home, including some NHS workers and elderly people.

Viewers were urged to send in their messages via social media using the hashtag #BritainGetTalking and tagging ITV, a selection of which will be played on the channel.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Davina McCall (Scott Garfitt/PA)</figcaption>
Davina McCall (Scott Garfitt/PA)

Get Britain Talking is backed by a host of famous faces including Davina McCall, Alex Beresford and soap stars Lisa Riley, Ali Mardell, Sam Aston, Ryan Prescott, Chris Bisson, Dolly Rose Campbell and Michelle Hardwick.

Director of social purpose for ITV Clare Phillips said: “Physical isolation doesn’t have to mean social isolation.

“Britain has never needed to connect more, and through Britain Get Talking we want to use ITV to help people feel good, talk more and establish a feeling of unity through these challenging and unprecedented times.

“Hearing someone’s voice is a proven means of decreasing anxiety and stress so we want to encourage more talking and more connecting.”

Chief executive of YoungMinds Emma Thomas said: “The next few weeks are going to be a challenging time for millions of people across the country, and it’s really important that we keep supporting each other and reaching out to those who might be struggling to cope.

“Even if we can’t see friends and family face to face, it makes a huge difference speaking over the phone, on video calls or through messaging – and it’s also crucial that we look out for neighbours who are on their own or living in difficult circumstances.

“We’re really pleased to be part of Britain Get Talking, encouraging people to keep connecting to each other and talking about how they’re feeling.”

Chief executive of Mind Paul Farmer said: “We are currently facing the biggest challenge to the nation’s mental wellbeing for a very long time.

“Reaching out is going to be a critical part of getting through the coming weeks and will go a long way in helping keep our spirits up.

“We are pleased to be part of ITV’s campaign and encourage everyone to do what they can to connect with others and show extra support for those doing the difficult job of keeping us safe and well.”