A man sits in the pub surrounded by loved ones, drinks are flowing, laughter can be heard but nobody can spot the dark cloud hovering over his head. Lonely and desperate in a room full of people and loved ones.
Coronation Street's portrayal of Aiden’s suicide is brave. It’s brave because it tackled the epidemic of male suicide in a realistic way which is something that has still been taboo in British soaps, even in 2018.
Aiden was not a villain choosing to jump rather than face prison, he wasn’t a loud obvious choice of character to be depicted as have been suffering from depression - that’s why it’s brave. It will do more in terms of raising conversation around the topic than any other portrayal of depression I’ve viewed.
That’s the reality isn’t it? It’s not always obvious, the energy it takes to keep up a public face means everything is zapped from you behind closed doors. Not talking, keeping it in for shame, inability or a feeling of ‘I shouldn’t be feeling like this’ is the reality for a lot of males suffering from depression. It’s a quiet voice rather than a loud roar.
There are subtle signs that were planted throughout the story-line and I hope that as a nation we discuss those signs, as they could be what makes the difference to you reaching out to someone you see or love. The portrayal of Aiden by Shayne Ward has been brilliant, acting that would fit in well on the silver screen. Our country has incredible actors in our soaps, and without them the amazing scripts would not have anything like the impact that they do.
As a viewer I was so focussed on David’s torment after his rape ordeal, his roars so loud yet also so silent that I didn’t recognise the subtle hints that Aiden was suffering from depression. When Imran told David to ‘man up’ I applauded the writers in my head.
Isn’t that an issue. What is ‘man up’? Is it ‘don’t talk’ ‘don’t be sad’ ‘’be tough’ ‘be strong’ because that’s what a man does, a man doesn’t open up, articulate his emotions because for so many years that is what we have programmed our young men to believe. When they feel themselves not measuring up to that standard we are serving them a slab of shame to go alongside their depression.
If they haven’t had practice along the way then how are they to know what to do when the big, overwhelming emotions encompass them. Times are different. The world is different. We NEED to be different.
Suicide doesn’t just affect Men of course, but the figures tell us that it is the single biggest cause of death for men under 45 in the UK and these are three times higher than female suicide rates. That is a problem that continues to grow amongst our male population. Something must be done.
We MUST MUST get emotional literacy activities, strategies and language in homes and schools. We MUST MUST start ensuring parents, carers and educators have the knowledge and confidence to support emotional development in the right way, based on evidence.
When will we STOP and take note of the year we are in? We need to look at brain development studies which show what we need to thrive, and then look at what is missing in today’s world. We have more information than we’ve ever had. How then can we account for the huge decline in mental health? When will we start looking at trauma informed practice as a way of ensuring all children get the correct emotional support growing up?
It’s 2018, not 1948! The time needs to be now.
Coronation Street have laid down the gauntlet and we must pick it up to push forward and evoke change, because as David said, ‘I don’t want to die. I want to live’.
Jennifer Wyman is founder of Bridge the Gap and an emotional education consultant and trainer. A qualified early years practitioner and mum of two with over 21 years experience within the early years sector.