I have a confession. I watch Eastenders. For those from less rainy shores than these, it is the most popular soap opera in the UK. Not exactly high-brow but I enjoy it! I have watched Eastenders roughly from when it first started and while I’ve never got into Coronation Street or Emmerdale, I’ve always had a soft spot for the London-based soap (Ok, I had a ‘Neighbours’ phase when I was at school but that was just because of the times it was on!).
Yesterday was one of the peaks of the storyline which will see one of the main (young) characters (Stacey Branning) coming to terms with Bipolar Disorder.
Eastenders likes ‘issues’. I haven’t always been terribly impressed by some of their portrayals but it seems that they have MIND onside for this one and Stacy is presented in a sympathetic enough way (to me anyway. ) for her distress to be noted.
I think that addressing the effects and the reality (although it is obviously intensified for the sake of television) of the distress of a mental illness may help to increase wider understanding – after all, you can put on all the worthy documentaries you like – but if you really want to capture public attention you go for the soap operas!
Although Stacey’s behaviour has been a little erratic consistently, yesterday the thought that it was actually related to an illness was presented straight out.
“The degree of research and consultancy they have undertaken to ensure an accurate and honest portrayal of how mental distress affects not only the individual but also family and friends is to be commended. For many people with mental health problems the stigma and discrimination they can face can be a bigger obstacle than the illness itself. We hope this storyline will help to dispel the myths about mental health problems and help the public to be more informed about this issue.”
And if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me!
I will be interested to see how the storyline develops… solely for the sake of research, of course!