Thursday 22 August 2019

EastEnders praised for 'important' men's depression storyline

Danny-Boy Hatchard, whose character Lee Carter is leaving EastEnders
Danny-Boy Hatchard, whose character Lee Carter is leaving EastEnders

EastEnders viewers have thanked the show for drawing attention to "important" men's mental health issues in an episode which saw one young character almost commit suicide.

In Friday night's episode, Lee Carter, played by Danny-Boy Hatchard, contemplated jumping from a high building after weeks of struggling with bullying and money troubles sent him into a downward spiral of depression.

People watching the popular BBC soap took to social media to praise the storyline, with one user posting on Twitter: "Lee's storyline, and where he is right now, is so very important. This happens in real life, and isn't something to laugh at."

Another wrote: "What a job EastEnders are doing on this depression storyline. Still a huge stigma around mental illness in men and we must talk about that."

In response to a number who said Carter should "man up", another viewer tweeted: "The whole 'man up' phrase in regards to Lee Carter in EastEnders is precisely why EastEnders are doing this storyline."

Hatchard, who will be leaving the soap, described such attitudes as "dangerous" after reading the way viewers wrote about his character on social media.

He told the Press Association: "I've been seeing a lot on social media, people saying Lee is miserable, Lee needs to man up, sad things such as Lee needs to do the unthinkable, and it's raising a lot of debate with people who have suffered or know people who have suffered.

"I sat there and read messages and it's a real shame, these people who have those thoughts towards Lee as a worthless human being. I worry that if he was a real person, people like this would dangerously make him feel a lot worse, so I feel like EastEnders should be tackling it in a way where we educate these people who are not as aware as they could possibly be and that can only ever have a positive effect."

He said he was "honoured" to be a part of the storyline and added: "I think that kind of drive to abolish that stigma and to encourage people who are suffering to talk and to know that it is okay, the way that they are feeling. It's a responsibility I'm happy to take."

The BBC One soap's writers and Hatchard, 25, worked closely with the Samaritans on the storyline.

Samaritans media adviser Lorna Fraser added her praise to the soap for highlighting the issue of mental health and educating the wider public.

She said: "Soaps can do such an amazing job in helping educate the wider public around the issue of mental health problems and how things can escalate. Through the character of Lee in his story, what is shown is all of these pressures mount up and it's the cumulative effect of these things that really start to get him down.

"And what has exacerbated that part for Lee, which is a common issue particularly for men, is keeping it to himself, wearing that mask, keeping it a secret, pretending everything is going okay and adding to all of this pressure then is him having to bear all of that by himself."

PA Media

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