Channel 4 puts Winston Churchill in a straitjacket

Statues of Florence Nightingale, Charles Darwin and Samuel Johnson are also dressed up as part of a stunt to promote the 4 Goes Mad season

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Winston Churchill’s statue in Parliament Square has been fitted with its own tailor-made straitjacket to promote Channel 4’s season of primetime programmes highlighting issues of mental illness.

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The former British Prime Minister was known to have suffered from bouts of depression – gloomy periods he termed his “black dog”. He is one of four public statues dressed in straitjackets for the stunt: joining him are Florence Nightingale in Waterloo Place, Charles Darwin in Shrewsbury and Samuel Johnson in Lichfield. 

Crimean nurse Nightingale is understood to have struggled with bipolar disorder, while Origin of Species author Darwin suffered from anxiety and writer Samuel Johnson endured bouts of depression. Each statue’s bespoke straitjacket has their illness emblazoned across it. 

The 4 Goes Mad season is set to launch on July 23 to challenge the stigma of mental health and will feature programmes including well-known depression sufferer Ruby Wax’s Mad Confessions, Jon Richardson: A Little Bit of OCD and World’s Maddest Job Interview.

Lina Prestwood, commissioning editor for the season, said: “Despite the fact one in four of us are likely to experience a mental health condition in our lifetime, misunderstanding and stigma persists.”

“We wanted to demonstrate how outmoded attitudes towards mental illness can be by using the archaic image of the straitjacket in conjunction with individuals whose achievements have made them some of the most celebrated Britons of all time – they also happened to have mental health conditions.”

Associate director of charity Rethink Mental Illness, Jane Harris, added: “We’re pleased to see Channel 4 putting mental health on the agenda with this bold stunt. Churchill in a straitjacket is a provocative but powerful image which highlights the message that mental illness can affect anyone, no matter how able or successful.”

Footage of the stunt will also be used in a short film to be shown as part of the channel’s art season, Random Acts, which begins on Monday and showcases 260 specially commissioned three-minute films.

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Churchill’s statue was famously defaced 12 years ago when a piece of turf shaped like a mohican was placed on his scalp during May Day demonstrations.