EastEnders worked closely with Samaritans on this week’s storyline, featuring the return of Sean.
“The return of Sean Slater gives us a unique opportunity to explore two different aspects of mental health: on the one hand, the results of a long-term and untreated depression; and on the other, a person who has had a lifetime of trying to understand the delicate balance of their own mental health – and is coming out winning.
“The story is beautifully and intelligently played by Robert Kazinsky and Gillian Wright, both of whom cared deeply about getting it right, prompting discussion, and making a difference.” – Kate Oates, Head of Continuing Drama, BBC
Sean made a surprise return to Walford last week after finding out that his mum, Jean, played by Gillian Wright, had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. In tonight’s episode (Monday 29th April) viewers saw Sean returning to Albert Square intent on putting his previous wrongdoings, right.
However, after a tense confrontation with Jack Branning (Scott Maslen), Sean discovered that his ex-wife, Roxy, died two years ago. Stunned by the news, it soon became clear to viewers that Sean has been contemplating taking his own life.
Later this week viewers will learn that Sean has been struggling with a secret that he has been hiding for years and as he opens up to his mum, and sister, Stacey, the impact the secret has had on him is evident. The BBC One soap consulted Samaritans as it was keen to portray Sean’s storyline as sensitively as possible.
“Given the sensitivities with covering the topic of suicide, we were pleased that EastEnders worked with us on Sean’s storyline. It’s important that we raise awareness of the issues surrounding suicide and drama can play a powerful role in this. Carefully developed storylines can help to generate discussion and can prompt viewers, who may be suffering in silence, to speak out and seek help.
“Sean’s story particularly highlights the importance of talking about our feelings, when we’re struggling to cope. If you’re worried about a friend you think may be struggling it’s alright to ask them if they’re ok, for some it can be a huge relief to know that someone’s spotted they may be going through a difficult time and they’re there to listen.” – Lorna Fraser, Samaritans’ Media Advice Service
Samaritans was founded in 1953 by Dr Chad Varah CH CBE as a point of contact for UK and Ireland citizens in emotional distress. It was the world’s first 24 hour telephone helpline and has expanded from one man and a phone, more than 60 years ago, to 20,665 volunteers, in 201 branches, answering more than five million calls for help, today.
The charity undertakes research into suicide and issues around emotional health and, in addition to the helpline service, provides face-to-face support at its branches and confidential support over email. Samaritans also undertakes outreach at festivals and other outdoor events and trains prisoners as “Listeners” to provide support within prisons.
The charity’s vision is that fewer people will die by suicide. Visit Samaritans.org for more information.