‘BBC put me in a mental hospital.’ Bill Oddie claims he suffered crippling depression after being axed from Springwatch
‘BBC put me in a mental hospital’
Bill Oddie claims he suffered crippling depression after being axed from Springwatch
- Oddie: I was forced out following probe into my behaviour during filming
- BBC put presenter’s dismissal down to his health problems at the time
- Condition sees him have depressive episodes and manic activity periods
- Suspects that his mood swings upset colleagues and members of public
Pre-existing illness: Bill Oddie, 72, says he was forced out following an investigation into his behaviour during filming
Simon Cable 13 August 2013
Bill Oddie has claimed that the BBC ‘put him in hospital’ with crippling depression when it dropped him from Springwatch four and a half years ago.
The presenter said his pre-existing illness reached a crisis point when the broadcaster unexpectedly sacked him from the popular wildlife series.
Oddie, 72, says he was forced out following an investigation into his behaviour during filming. At the time, the BBC put his dismissal down to his health problems.
Oddie had previously been diagnosed with clinical depression, a diagnosis that has since been amended to bipolar disorder, in which depressive episodes alternate with periods of manic activity.
He suspects that his mood swings upset colleagues and members of the public during filming on location at Brownsea Island in Dorset.
But he says he can’t understand the decision to fire him just before Christmas 2008, and that it plunged him into a despair which culminated in admission to London’s Capio Nightingale psychiatric hospital in March 2009.
‘They just said: “We won’t be asking you to do it again,”’ he told Radio Times. ‘And actually you’re so taken aback at that moment you don’t insist: “Why not?” That put me in hospital for a year, basically.’
The naturalist, who had worked on the programme since it was launched in 2005, later tried to find out why he had been treated in this way, but says the BBC only gave him ‘a waffly statement’ with no specific detail. He was replaced by presenter Chris Packham.
He said the incident affected his whole family. His youngest daughter, Rosie, described seeing her father taken to hospital: ‘It wasn’t my dad. It was a shell of a human. My dad is full of life and love, but that person was crippled with self-doubt.’
Oddie spent much of that year in hospital, only being released in December. He has described the period as ‘probably the worst 12 months of my life’.
After his diagnosis, he was prescribed lithium, which he still takes. He now feels ‘absolutely fine’.
He added: ‘When I look back, I think during that autumn period I was on a high because I was very edgy and tetchy. Your ability to work long hours and think quickly and that sort of thing is usually heightened.
‘But one or two people said to me, “You know, you really intimidate people in the office,” and I said: “Why?” They’d say: “Well you know, you’re sort of brusque and impatient sometimes.”
‘I never thought so, you know. I look back and I think, yeah, I guess I was.’ ‘I could well see that there was an autumn of mania going on and therefore I was probably giving signals out which I didn’t realise and, I imagine, signals were reported back.
‘I think somebody said the public complained I was swearing at a cameraman or a producer when we were on location somewhere in a shop.’
He is now returning to the BBC in a new six-part series, Britain’s Big Wildlife Revival, which will feature wildlife experts choosing a creature they want to protect for future generations.