Ant McPartlin suffered through a very public battle with addiction this year. He spent some time in rehab in June after becoming addicted to alcohol and prescription painkillers following a knee operation in 2015. Naturally, there were questions about whether he would return to host this year’s I’m A Celebrity, which kicked off in Oz last night. And if he did return, would be mention his time away in rehab?
As viewers saw last night, the TV host tackled the topic head-on in his typical cheeky fashion – and he’s been praised for his openness.
When the ITV show started last night, Ant’s TV partner Dec joked: “We are back and we’re here for the next three weeks, your hosts with the most, me and the gorgeous Holly Willoughby…”
Playing along, Ant replied: “What! Sorry what!”
Dec then continued the joke: “Oh, no! Guys that’s the wrong script! You’ve put the wrong script in! Nobody was sure if you would make it or not” before Ant said, “I’m back, my friend. It’s good to be back”.
Later in the programme, Dec asked his jungle co-host: “Where were you all summer anyway, what were you doing?”
“Just stuff… just dead busy,” McPartlin replied.
And as the show started, Ant tweeted: “Aaaaaaannnddd, we’re off!! It’s good to be back.”
Reacting to the show, viewers were quick to praise how he didn’t shy away from referencing his addiction issues.
On Twitter, Laura said: “I love the fact Ant and Dec can both joke about Ant being in rehab instead of pretending it all didn’t happen.”
Lucy said: “Dec bantering ant about the whole rehab & addiction situation is probably the best thing to have happened tonight. He is literally continuing to end the stigma & add light to a dark situation.”
Reece added: “I’m glad Ant & Dec are choosing to make light out of Ant being in rehab and not avoiding the subject or seeing it as something to be embarrassed about.”
Shannon wrote online: “Dec bantering ant about the whole rehab & addiction situation is probably the best thing to have happened tonight. Proves there is always light at the end of the tunnel.”
And mental health experts have also praised Ant referencing his addiction issues.
A spokeswoman for Addaction, a charity that helps people with alcohol, drug and mental health issues, told ShortList this morning: “It is clear that telling stories of addiction recovery and celebrating people who have got their lives back is hugely important, so someone as well known and well-loved as Ant McPartlin bravely sharing his experiences will undoubtedly encourage others to seek out support and find recovery, as well as combat the stigma that many people affected by alcohol or drug issues unfairly face in our society.
“Addiction is a health issue that affects many of us, from all walks of life. But people recover every day. It’s not easy, however, with the help and support of people with their own experiences of addiction, and the help of staff like ours, people get their lives back on track. The more we can remind the world of that by celebrating successes like Ant’s, the more they become an inspiration for others and the more chances others have of doing the same.”
If you have any queries about addiction or mental health, you can have a confidential web chat on their website: www.addaction.org.uk
Sue Baker OBE, Director of Time to Change, the mental health campaign run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, also told me: “It’s been really encouraging to see the outpouring of support from the general public in response to Ant’s return to our screens. It shows just how far attitudes towards mental health problems have come and highlights that there is no shame in seeking help. Ant’s journey will no doubt give people, especially men, the confidence to reach out for support.
“Too many men still don’t see mental health as being relevant to them. That’s why we’ve launched the ‘In Your Corner’ campaign – to encourage men to look out for their mates and step in if they’re acting differently.”