Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Coronation Street and mental health

(This post was originally posted by Seapenguin on the Coronation Street Blog in July, 2010, reposted to this blog with permission.)

I'm full of admiration for Ian Puleston-Davies (Coronation Street's Owen Armstrong), who spoke out recently about his experience of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It's not an easy thing to do.

Beverley Callard has also spoken candidly about her experience of depression. There's still a considerable stigma around mental illness, mental health problems, call it what you will, and it really affects people's job prospects, relationships, self esteem, and so forth - so it's commendable when people in the public eye speak up. Sometimes, celeb depression/bipolar stories in the newspapers don't ring quite true somehow - but these ones do, to me.

Personally, I've seen mental illness from both sides - I spent years working as a counsellor and then due to reasons I'll spare you, suffered from severe agoraphobia and panic attacks which were truly horrendous. Although I don't suffer from OCD, I can identify with much of what Ian describes. Terrifying stuff. Fortunately in my case the worst is way behind me, I battled through it somehow, but like many I'm always afraid it will come back.
Mental health problems of one kind or another affect at least one in four of us (that's the stat. that's usually bandied about anyway), so they are a part of daily life - and Coronation Street reflects this. And the good thing is, they don't ruin it by going all po-faced and heavy-handed - like some "other serial dramas" I could mention.

A storyline which sticks in my mind for obvious reasons, is the Shelley Unwin one, where she developed agoraphobia. I thought it was handled pretty accurately, except she got over it awfully fast! but, hey - it is soapland, and it would have been awful AND counterproductive if they'd made it boring. Another storyline I thought was well-handled was Maria's reaction to Liam's death.

The Peter Barlow alcohol storyline has also been excellent. But best of the lot, in recent times - and I know we were all sick to the back teeth of hearing "He was a GOOD MAN" - aaargh!! - was the Joe McIntyre debt/desperation/faking own death saga. Very true to life - mostly! There are many (I WAS going to say, "in the same boat" - but won't) - who will be equally desperate, especially in the recession.
Anyway - many, many thanks to Corrie cast, writers, etc., for increasing awareness of these issues and showing that they are part of our daily lives.

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