Mental Health In The Media: Depression In Coronation Street

Do we talk about mental health enough? Maybe not, but when we do it is particularly important to portray mental health in the media accurately. Congratulations, but caution to ITV for their recent depiction of depression in Coronation Street.  ITV successfully raised an accurate awareness of a mental health condition which can affect between 10 and 20% of people during their lifetime.

The current storyline, featuring the character Steve Macdonald (played by Simon Gregson) has recently shown broadly the effects of symptoms of clinical depression in a broad and balanced way.  Seeing mental health in the media in one of our favourite soaps can raise awareness of symptoms that people may otherwise be unaware of or less likely to seek help for.

The script writers have until recently dealt depression in Coronation Street honestly and sensitively, with a realism that is heartening to see.  Steve’s mental health has been in decline for a number of weeks where we have seen typical symptoms of depression as he gradually ‘opts out’ and stops communicating with his family, colleagues and friends. His behaviour has changed so much that we have seen the breakdown of his relationship, problems in his business, coupled with financial difficulty and debt. Experiences such as these are important to recognise and address, however the soap also shows Steve struggling to seek help, which can be a typical style of coping for many men.

A report by Time to Change charity says that influential TV shows are getting better at accurately depicting mental health issues. They have studied soap drama story lines, which have been shown over the last 12 months. They say writers and producers have attempted to depict mental health in the media more accurately with fewer characters with a mental illness being portrayed as violent.  However, in recent days ITV have sadly resorted to over dramatising the condition.  Commenting on the findings and current portrayal of clinical depression, Coronation Street producer Stuart Blackburn said, ‘A particular challenge we faced with Steve and his depression is that audiences fear the Steve they love is gone for good. What viewers love about him primarily is the comedy, he’s the affable, hapless bloke next door.’ Blackburn went on to say that it’s important to remember that Steve’s DNA hasn’t changed!

The report also encouragingly found that 54 per cent of people said that seeing a well known character on screen has improved their understanding of mental health problems with 48% saying it helped to change their opinion about ‘the kind of people’ who can experience depression.

The Producer said he hopes a show like Corrie can genuinely make a difference to thousands of people, who’ll be watching with different eyes, or thinking ‘maybe I should seek help’.  We encourage them to return to balanced an helpful portrayals of depression.

Depression in the media