Thousands contacted BBC Action Line after domestic violence storyline in The Archers


Thousands of people struggling with domestic violence contacted the BBC Action Line in 2016 as the issue was portrayed in Radio 4 drama The Archers.

More than a quarter of a million requests for help were made to the line in 2016 by people struggling with a variety of issues including depression and domestic abuse.

Almost 25,000 people sought help about domestic violence on the online support web page as the gruelling storyline involving characters Helen and Rob Titchener played out.

The Archers
The Archers (Pete Dadds/BBC/PA)

Some 1,350 people called the support line about the issue.

Louiza Patikas, who plays Helen in the radio drama, said: "As part of my research into this storyline I met victims of domestic violence and coercive control, and soon learned that abuse can happen to anyone.

Helen, who is played by Louiza Patikas
Helen, who is played by Louiza Patikas (BBC Pictures)

"The BBC Action Line is so important, both for victims of abuse and for the people who support them, so they have somewhere to go for advice and help."

Some 24,100 people called the line in 2016, while the programmes' online support pages were visited more than 264,000 times.

A court artist drawing illustrating defendant Helen Titchener listening to evidence from her husband Rob
A court artist drawing illustrating defendant Helen Titchener listening to evidence from her husband Rob (BBC)

Shows about autism, cancer, dementia and mental health also encouraged people to seek help and the Dementia season of shows prompted 697 calls to the BBC Action Line and 8,784 visits to the dedicated website.

Almost 4,000 people called about emotional distress in 2016 after the issue was covered on programmes such as Panorama, EastEnders and BBC Radio 4´s PM, and more than 1,400 people called about sexual abuse.

In January 2016, BBC One broadcast Children Saved From The Nazis, with the Action Line providing information about the register of survivors.

The programme prompted 74 people to call the service and led to two survivors being added to the register.

In May 2016, BBC Action Line also provided support for The Invictus Games 2016, generating 139 calls and 7,648 visits to the online support page.

Prince Harry meets athletes taking part in the 2016 Invictus Games
Prince Harry with Invictus Games athletes (Peter Byrne/PA)

Over Christmas, BBC One's flagship soap EastEnders will focus on depression as the plot centres on the strained marriage of Lee and Whitney Carter and the service will be promoted during the episodes.

Whitney and Lee Carter
Whitney and Lee Carter (Jack Barnes/BBC)

Keith Jones, from BBC audience services, said: "2016 has been a very busy year for BBC Action Line, providing an important public service by supporting our viewers and listeners affected by the huge range of social issues that are highlighted in our programmes.

"The BBC is committed to covering challenging topics and bringing them to the attention of our audiences, but it's also vital that we provide the off-air information to help them, in partnership with the many organisations around the UK that can provide support and are willing to do so.

"The BBC's helplines have been providing this service for more than 20 years and continue to help the many thousands of people affected by these issues."