Postpartum psychosis, an illness which affects women who have just given birth, is to be explored in a major new EastEnders storyline for Stacey Branning (Lacey Turner).
Although the condition can affect a woman without pre-existing mental health issues, it is more likely to affect a mother who has bipolar disorder. Stacey was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2009.
The soap is working with Mind and Bipolar UK to accurately depict Stacey’s plight, which will begin on screen just before Christmas when she gives birth at the local nativity play. Viewers know that the baby is Kush Kazemi’s (Davood Ghadami), but Stacey’s boyfriend Martin Fowler (James Bye) is blissfully unaware of the fact.
“Stacey’s mental health story will be one of our biggest storylines over Christmas and the beginning of 2016 as we explore Stacey’s bipolar disorder and its effects on her and those closest to her. We have always had a big commitment to Stacey’s story and this time we want to explore the effects of postpartum psychosis on those with bipolar – something which, although a rare illness, is unfortunately more common when mothers with bipolar give birth – and look at what we are doing as a country to help mothers experiencing this. EastEnders have worked closely with Mind, Bipolar UK, other experts in the field and women with personal experience to show a story that is true and painful while also filled with the usual twists and turns viewers have come to expect from EastEnders.
“Lacey is one of the most raw and intuitive actresses on television and it’s exciting to watch her getting her teeth into a really intense storyline as Stacey battles against the world. With the truth about Stacey’s baby’s parentage bubbling underneath and the final reveal of the meaning of Stacey’s key, this story is going to place Stacey right in the centre of a very big storm…” – EastEnders Executive Producer, Dominic Treadwell-Collins
Clare Dolman, Vice Chair of Bipolar UK commented : “As the national charity supporting people with bipolar, we’ve been glad to work closely with the BBC on Stacey’s storyline. There is a very high risk that women with bipolar will become ill when they have a child and 20-25% of them will have a postpartum psychosis so it’s fantastic that EastEnders are raising awareness of this devastating condition. When it happens it’s a psychiatric emergency, and yet it’s eminently treatable and the vast majority of women recover to be great mothers. There is now a new charity that specifically supports those with this condition which women such as myself who have suffered the illness have set up with leading medical experts and researchers called APP-Action on Postpartum Psychosis.
“Several of our volunteers have visited the EastEnders studio to tell the writers and researchers what having this very frightening illness is really like, and we are very pleased that the BBC production team are trying so hard to give an accurate portrayal of a condition that needs to be brought out of the shadows. We hope Stacey’s journey over the next months will shine a spotlight on postpartum psychosis and help to reduce the stigma against mental illness. If anyone is affected by the storyline, go to www.bipolaruk.org.uk or www.app-network.org. where there are booklets, videos, personal stories and online peer support forums.”
“We are pleased EastEnders is tackling another important, often misunderstood, mental health problem. Although very rare, postpartum psychosis is an incredibly serious illness that can affect a woman with or without pre-existing mental health problems just after birth. It is so important that we are raising awareness about this subject through the medium of soap as it brings the issue into the living rooms of a massive audience helping us to challenge stigma and improve understanding.
“We have been working with the EastEnders team to develop this storyline over several months and have been impressed by the dedication they have shown in portraying postpartum psychosis sensitively. We arranged for some of our supporters who have personal experience of postpartum psychosis to visit Albert Square to meet with the researchers, actors and writers, and we have been involved with ongoing script consultation. Mind’s media advice service works with soaps and dramas to inform storylines when a fictional character has a mental health problem. The main aim of the service is to tackle incorrect and outdated stereotypes.
“We know that soap storylines about mental health problems are very impactful at encouraging people to seek help. A Mind poll found that 25 per cent of people who were experiencing mental health problems were prompted to seek support after seeing a soap or drama cover the topic. We also found plotlines are a fantastic way of getting people to think differently about mental health, with 44 per cent of people saying storylines had helped change their opinion about the kind of person who can develop a mental health problem and a third saying soap stories encouraged them to have conversations about mental health issues.” – Head of Media, Mind, Alison Kerry
Lacey has previously won awards for her portrayal of Stacey’s mental health issues including the Making a Difference Award at the Mind Media Awards in 2009 (pictured below).
EastEnders airs Monday and Friday at 8.00pm and Tuesday and Thursday at 7.30pm on BBC One, with repeat screenings on BBC Three at 10.00pm. Viewers can also catch up online via BBC iPlayer.