‘I laughed, I cried. I put my heart into it and I bared my soul’ - Peter Mitchell’s BBC doc

Limavady man, actor and former Leeds United footballer Peter Mitchell. Photo supplied by BBC.
Limavady man, actor and former Leeds United footballer Peter Mitchell. Photo supplied by BBC.

When Limavady actor, Peter Mitchell says he put his heart and soul into a candid new programme giving an honest insight into the lives of people who become ‘Disabled in an Instant’, he isn’t exaggerating, writes Sheena Jackson.

‘The Truth About Becoming Disabled’ is a film about what happens to young people who have battled to survive a life-changing illness or injury, only to get out of hospital and find themselves facing an even bigger fight to access the support they need to live the life they want.

The Coronation Street star and ex-Leeds United footballer was paralysed in a car crash 13 years ago.

The programme was something Peter had wanted to do for years, a project he calls “my baby”.

It left him emotionally drained, forcing him to re-live his own accident.

“People said to me, ‘Mitch, you have to protect yourself because this will hit very close to home’. You will be re-living your own accident, but I couldn’t protect myself. I had to get involved. I have lived it myself. This was something I had to do,” Peter told the ‘Journal’.

“I hope this film changes people’s perceptions of disability but, more importantly, I hope the people in charge take notice and realise that there is still so much more that needs to be done to help young disabled people get back out there and get on with their lives. I want things to change, because people have to realise that what happened to me can happen to anyone.”

The BBC Three programme, which aired on Monday, sets out to help and question why the very systems in place that are supposed to assist disabled people don’t work better.

Along the way, Peter meets 19-year old Billy, who broke his back in a motocross accident last June and lives in a hotel room after leaving hospital because of the time it’s taking to adapt his family home. Peter also meets Jacob, a 23-year-old who survived meningitis and spent two years in hospital, but when he finally gets home finds himself trapped there without a specially adapted car.

Peter also meets Helen, who had to learn to walk again after being paralysed by a rare autoimmune condition, but whose struggle with the benefit system is ongoing.

Peter told the ‘Journal’ he is so proud of the programme and that the BBC believed in him.

“It’s been unbelievable. It’s just so honest. I hope it raises awareness and shows there is just not enough support for people.”

Since the programme aired, Peter said he has been inundated with messages of support.

“That’s what I wanted - for people to start talking about it and people are telling me ‘thank you for doing this, because now I know I am not alone’” said Peter. “There is such a stigma around disability, and I don’t understand it because at any given time it can happen to anyone. It’s crazy.”

Peter said he hopes the film has helped people, and raises awareness.

“I’ve been acting for six years and the last couple of years I have been thinking about this. Every time we filmed I was re-living my own accident. I put my heart into it. I left no stone unturned. I laughed and cried and I told my story. No one can say I wasn’t emotionally involved,” said Peter.

The programme is available on BBC iPlayer