13th May 2018 

Mental health matters. Suicide prevention matters. LGBT+ matters. Inspired by our awareness film ‘Ollie’, young blogger Charlie Davis writes about what #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek means to him.

Everybody that knows my family and I, know that we are avid Coronation Street fans. We never miss an episode and it is sadly, a highlight of the week. As watchers, we have witnessed murders, deaths, rapes, marriages, birthdays, divorces, kidnappings and births. I have watched the show from as early as I can remember and although it may sound stupid, it has truly helped shape me as a person. Coronation Street really can teach you a thing or two about relationships as well as difficult times in people’s lives.

This week has been particularly poignant, and is the main reason why I have chosen to feature Coronation Street in this week’s blog. Before I get down to why, I want to personally thank the writers, cast, producers and everybody at Coronation Street for covering such difficult, dark and moving subjects over the past few weeks.

This week we saw Aidan Connor, a business owner, good looking and fairly ‘normal’ man commit suicide. How he did it is unknown (and pretty irrelevant) but this is the first ever soap suicide we have very seen. I can imagine that this was pretty difficult for all involved, as it just had to be done correctly, considering it’s a subject that is affecting more and more of our population. Whilst Aidan’s family and friends were dealing with the fact he had killed himself, simultaneously we were watching a young man, named Craig, come to terms dealing with his OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), a disorder that again affects a huge proportion of our population and is a serious mental health condition. Additionally, David Platt, a character who has grown up on the street and was recently a victim of male rape finally tells his ex-girlfriend the ordeal that he went through. He had spent weeks on end keeping his emotions, thoughts and feelings in and after witnessing Aidan’s suicide, decided that he did not want to be in the same position shortly in the future.

I thought these 3 topics were all so incredibly poignant, and the way that Corrie linked them was just simply outstanding. Depression, OCD and other mental health issues can lead to suicide and people feeling like they simply just cannot live anymore.

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As stated above, Aidan Connor has what seems to be everything going for him. He is a fairly good-looking man, with a decent job, girls chasing him around every corner, all of his family are alive and he has a nice car. Nobody would ever really have expected him to commit suicide and end his own life, which is why this story line is particularly special. It highlights that people, no matter how happy they may seem, may also really struggle inside. The Samaritans charity reported that 6,639 people committed suicide in the UK, 4,997 of which were men. This equates to 13 men a day (on average) killing themselves. These are haunting statistics and only emphasises that something has to be done to reduce this.

I keep thinking what can be done to stop/reduce this and I brainstorm regularly and still haven’t come close to a final conclusion. Last Wednesday’s Coronation Street’s episode also focused heavily on the impact that the death had on family and friends. I thought this was incredibly touching, and shows that not everybody feels the same way. Aidan’s sister for example, was angry that he could do such a thing and thought that he was incredibly selfish committing suicide. His Dad on the other hand was in bits, physically not being able to talk and pretty much in tears for the whole episode. This only reflects what it must be like for families that so tragically have to deal with these situations in real life.

Last week, I came across a suicide awareness film, produced by young creatives on behalf of The OLLIE Foundation. This is an exceptionally produced video and I think it’s important that everyone watches it. Personally, I loved the video because it is short and sweet. It gets straight to the point and highlights the need to speak out. Additionally, it suggests (quite truthfully), like Coronation Street, that people are ashamed and afraid to speak out and however happy someone may seem, they truly are struggling inside. The main character struggling to tell people how he feels is also gay, but finds it hard telling people the truth. This means a lot to me, as I spent over 8 years denying myself from telling people that I was gay. Holding in these thoughts never made me feel depressed, but they did make me feel angrier and more anxious. It’s honestly heart breaking that there are people who feel so terrified just to tell people and accept within themselves who they really are. It is really rather special and I urge everybody, however young you may be to watch it.

This week is the annual Mental Health Awareness Week, where schools, universities and workplaces focus on Mental Health. The week focuses on stress, how to reduce stress and how we can tackle and improve our mental health together. I think this is a fantastic initiative and is one that will get people talking more. I think that really is the key to ending the stigma. You can join the discussion on all social media platforms, by using the hashtag #MHAW.

As you aware from my previous blogs, I have suffered and still do suffer with severe anxiety, worrying endlessly about nothing and still to this day struggle to find a trigger. I am lucky enough to have access to help and my parents, siblings and close friends are incredibly supportive. Sometimes it can become completely overwhelming and really difficult and can affect me really physically, including feeling de-attached from my friends and family (which is the worst feeling in the world), severe headaches and a bizarre sense of feeling completely alone, when I know I have so many people that I can rely on. It can be so isolating and extremely challenging.

Despite this, I am determined to make a change for people who suffer all around the world. I am sick to death of hearing and seeing that more and more people are being diagnosed with mental health conditions. As a society, we seem to be blissfully unaware that these conditions are as bad, if not worse, than physical illnesses, because they are hidden and most of the time, you and I would have no idea that somebody is suffering. This is therefore a reminder to be kind, always, to people you meet and know, because you never know what they are truly going through.

Remember that your illness does not define you, your strength and courage does!