(This post was originally posted by Graeme N on the Coronation Street Blog in August 2013.)
First of all, I think Simon Gregson is doing a great job with his current depression storyline in Coronation Street. I've always loved Steve and this story has taken the character to a completely different level.
I should confess right away that I have a particularly personal interest in this storyline. Not only am I studying for a counselling qualification at the moment, as part of that process I am also seeing a therapist myself.
It was therefore with some trepidation that I viewed Corrie the other evening when Steve finally goes to see a professional therapist. I think it is excellent that Coronation Street is covering this issue in the first place and focussing it on a character like Steve. And while it is great that a mainstream popular drama like Corrie is highlighting the issue of depression, I did have a nagging doubt as to how thorough it could be.
Obviously this storyline is character led and of course has its emphasis on dramatic effect, hence the bus crash last month. I suppose something needed to bring Steve's condition to a head so that he could receive the help and support he so desperately required. For me though, and this is strictly my own personal feelings, I wish it hadn't been on such a ratings grabbing scale, particularly given the subject matter at the core of the plot line. Undoubtedly the mini bus drama was impressively staged, (mostly) well acted and drew in the viewers.
I do wish we had seen Steve's subsequent visit to his GP. While we saw the initial visits some months ago, it would have been helpful to see the follow up when Steve was prescribed tablets to take. If time had been taken to show this it would have fleshed out what happens next in a more thorough way. I think the wide range of reactions to Steve's condition have been true and important and it must make some viewers challenge their own beliefs and prejudices regarding mental health issues.
Now we come to Steve's first visit to a professional therapist. There have been many comments on Twitter about the speed with which Steve managed to secure an appointment with a therapist. Although I don't think it was made clear in the episodes, I think it is obvious Steve is not seeing a therapist through the NHS. While talking therapies are available on the Health Service, I think it would take a great deal longer to be given an appointment than Steve has experienced. While not wanting to be too political, I think it's a shame this issue has not been highlighted on screen. The importance of counselling services through the NHS cannot and should not be underestimated.
Anyway, I am immediately disappointed by the arrival of Steve's therapist on screen. Not just for the ludicrous jumper around the shoulders business, which is patronising, but also because I understand the role of the therapist will only appear in two episodes. Either this means Steve decides not to continue with therapy or the rest of it will be played out off screen. Whatever the outcome it will be disappointing. I think it would be refreshing for the viewers to see Steve's therapy sessions every so often as he makes progress. While it might not make for high drama, it could, if handled sensitively and properly, go a long way to combat the myths that exist about going for counselling.
I am sure the powers that be at Coronation Street are well aware of the responsibility they have to educate as well as entertain the loyal Corrie audience. Taking on the issue of depression is a brave decision for all concerned. My main hope is that, unlike Tim's reading difficulties, it will not be used as a cheap plot device or suddenly disappear in a very unsatisfactory conclusion.
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