Huw Edwards has said a colleague told him the BBC “doesn’t want people to think there’s a nutter reading the 10 O’Clock news” after he told them he has depression.
The broadcaster, 60, described how his employer reacted when he told them, stating that there was initially a “deep freeze silence” while his former boss was very supportive.
Edwards, who has been at the public service broadcaster since 1984, revealed in a documentary last year he had bouts of depression which have left him “bedridden” since 2002.
He described how he still deals with it now, but added “it’s not as bad as it was”.
Speaking on the podcast hosted by BBC journalists Jane Garvey and Fi Glover, “Fortunately…with Fi and Jane”, they asked Edwards how their employer reacted to the news.
He said: “With, a kind of, a deep freeze silence to start with, which is always the kind of way the organization does.
“People don’t understand what the BBC is like. It can be a very sympathetic and supportive organisation. It can be not that. It’s a very bureaucratic organization.
“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.’
“And that advice, although it’s not always true, helped me a lot in terms of understanding that lots of the outcomes of the BBC, which sometimes you’re a victim of, were not personal at all, it’s just the machine delivering something. So on this one, the machine took a while to respond.”
He added: “But I have to say, in people like [former director of BBC News & Current Affairs] Fran Unsworth, who was my former boss in news, it couldn’t have been more supportive. It was fantastic.
“I think they [the BBC] they were rather nervous. One of my colleagues, who used a phrase which I can use because I was at the receiving end of it, and it’s not meant to cause offense in any way, one of them said to me ‘Well, the BBC doesn’t really want people to think there’s a nutter reading the 10 o’clock news.’ And I said, ‘What do you mean a nutter? What kind of phrase is that?’
“But that’s actually quite a good insight into the way people, some people still perceive these issues. That was said three years ago.”
He added that once he shared his news, several colleagues came up to him and said they had been “dealing with their own stuff for the last few years”.
Edwards said he decided to share publicly that he has depression as he felt it was “complete hypocrisy” to support organizations such as the Shawmind Foundation or Mind without explaining why.
“I also felt that it might be someway helpful to people if I opened up about it and say, ‘You can do a job and you can be successful’, whether it’s just reading a bit of autocue or doing whatever it is…while also dealing with issues like that,” he added.
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 Program 24/7, from anywhere in the world, and we also have trained Mental Health First Aiders inside many teams.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.