Mind to talk to its president Stephen Fry over child abuse comments

The actor and broadcaster, who has been the charity's president since 2011, said victims of child sex abuse should 'grow up' and stop feeling self pity

Stephen Fry
Stephen Fry

The mental health charity Mind will talk to its president Stephen Fry about comments he made concerning the victims of child sexual abuse.

During a discussion on freedom of speech on the US TV show The Rubin Report, Fry said victims of child sex abuse should "grow up" and stop feeling self pity.

Mind said it would be speaking to Fry to discuss concerns raised by supporters about the comments, but declined to say whether he would be asked to resign. 

During the interview on the current affairs show, a viewer called in to ask Fry about free speech on university campuses and the idea of "trigger warnings", or notes that warn audiences content might be distressing for the victims of trauma.

Fry said there were many great plays that contained scenes of sexual violence and rape.

"If you say ‘you can’t watch this play, you can’t watch Titus Andronicus, or you can’t read it in a Shakespeare class, or you can’t read Macbeth because it’s got children being killed in it – it might trigger something when you were young that upset you once, because uncle touched you in a nasty place’, well I’m sorry," he said.

"It’s a great shame and we’re all very sorry that your uncle touched you in that nasty place, you get some of my sympathy, but your self pity gets none of my sympathy because self pity is the ugliest emotion in humanity.

"Get rid of it, because no one’s going to like you if you feel sorry for yourself. The irony is we’ll feel sorry for you, if you stop feeling sorry for yourself. Just grow up."

The comments by Fry, who has previously spoken openly about his own battles with bipolar disorder, prompted concerns from mental health experts and charities.

Asked by Third Sector if Mind planned to remove Fry as president, a spokeswoman said the charity would not be adding to its statement on the matter.

The statement said the charity understood why some people had been upset about the comments, and that Fry, who has been its president since 2011, was speaking in a personal capacity.

"Abuse is incredibly serious and can have devastating consequences for survivors, particularly for their life-long mental health," it said. The statement urged anyone who had experienced any kind of abuse to seek support.

The statement said: "As president of Mind, Stephen Fry has done a huge amount to raise awareness and understanding about bipolar disorder and other mental health problems.

"He has supported Mind in our campaigning activities over the last decade and has helped enormously to change public attitudes in the UK about mental health for the better.

"We will be speaking to Stephen to discuss the concerns our supporters have raised."

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