Did Swedish Eurovision host’s mental health joke go too far?

A joke about mental health made by one of the Swedish hosts of the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest has resulted in criticism from viewers and mental health campaigners.

Did Swedish Eurovision host's mental health joke go too far?
Swedish comedian Petra Mede. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

Sweden received a great deal of praise for its tongue in cheek take on the pop pageant, but one gag managed to ruffle feathers. In a mid-show sketch, co-host Petra Mede went through a roll call of fictional Eurovision memorabilia, before arriving at man wearing a Eurovision-branded straitjacket.

“If you’re a really crazy fan, I strongly recommend the Eurovision straitjacket,” Mede joked, before adding “you know what they say, crazy is the new black”.

The gag has been met with condemnation on social media platform Twitter, with some asking the Eurovision organizers to apologize. 

However, other users suggested that there had been an overreaction to the sketch. 

Mental health charities have hit out at the quip, with anti-stigma campaign Time to Change accusing Eurovision of reinforcing negative stereotypes.

“It’s disappointing that mental health problems, which affect one in four of us in serious and sometimes devastating ways, are being used as part of a Eurovision gimmick,” wrote Kate Nightingale, the charity's head of communications, in a statement.

“Trivializing mental health problems and reinforcing outdated stereotypes of people in straitjackets has harmful consequences, making it harder for people to reach out for help and support,” she added.

“The Eurovision Song Contest is watched by many and it would be great to see it used as a platform for raising mental health awareness, not fuelling stigma.”

The Local contacted SVT, the Swedish broadcaster that produced the sketch, but they declined to comment, referring instead to Mede's personal representation.

The co-host's Eurovision press officer has yet to respond.


Sweden among favourites after leaping through to Eurovision final

Cornelia Jakobs, Sweden's entry to the Eurovision Song Contest, burst into tears and jumped onto presenter Mario Acampas, after shooting through to the final on Thursday night.

Sweden among favourites after leaping through to Eurovision final

Jakobs was emotional at the press conference after her victory, telling the story of her progress from an “largely unknown” indie artist to the Eurovision stage. 

“There are a lot of feelings right now in this little body, an extremely large amount of feelings that can’t really fit in, so they’re exploding,” she said, before beginning to cry. “But I’m so happy and overwhelmed by all the support I’ve got from all these fantastic countries.” 

When the time came to pick lots for which half of the final she would appear in, she leapt onto Mario Acampas, the presenter asking questions at the press conference, wrapping her legs around his waist and clasping herself tightly to his torso. 

He then walked her over to the bowl where the lots were lying. 

“I want you to choose the second half,” she said to him. “Imagine that I have a pistol here and on the count of three I’m going to shoot you if you don’t choose.”

He refused to pick for her so she took one herself and got the second half. 

Jakobs, with her song, “Hold me closer”, was the clear favourite to go into the final, and will go through alongside Finland’s The Rasmus, and his song Jezebel, Serbia’s Konstrakta with “In corpore sano”, as well as entries from Belgium, Czechia, Azerbaijan, Poland, Estonia, Australia, and Romania. 

You can see her performance on Thursday in the video below. 

In the final, she will meet the other favourites, which include Ukraine, Italy, and the United Kingdom. 

The final will be shown on Sweden’s state broadcaster SVT at 9pm on Saturday.