Coronation Street is set to explore the issue of loneliness and its impact on mental health in a storyline featuring fan favourite and cobbles legend Audrey Roberts.
Last month, viewers saw Audrey (played by Sue Nicholls) receiving treatment in hospital after telling a doctor she had accidentally taken too many tablets. And this week, she continues to insist that was the case to her own GP.
However, in emotional scenes set to air on 15 August, Audrey confides in Roy (David Neilson), Rita (Barbara Knox), Claudia (Rula Lenska) and Ken (William Roache), telling them that the overdose was in fact an attempt to take her own life.
The old friends will gather for a belated birthday lunch and are stunned when Audrey tells them she tried to make an attempt on her life three weeks ago, but a neighbour posting a leaflet spotted her and called an ambulance.
As they try to come to terms with the shock revelation, they ask her what led to the suicide attempt, confessing their guilt at not spotting the signs that their friend was struggling.
Audrey admits that she kept her feelings hidden and has not even told her family about what happened.
As the group discusses the problems that growing older can bring she explains that she misses her late husband Alfie and that she had been feeling useless and depressed, turning to drink after suffering with her eyesight deteriorating.
Audrey says: “I just seemed to spiral downwards. I'd toss and turn all night, then finally drop off just when I should be up and at 'em. Seizing the day. Huh! Spend the afternoons on the sauvignon blanc, wondering exactly what I'm good for?”
Sue, who has played the character of Audrey since 1979, explains: “Audrey is very sorry for what she has done and certainly her first reaction was to keep it from her family. Family do, and will always, mean so much to her despite the sniping now and again.
“She also enjoys living happily in her own home although the one big regret that has contributed to this latest situation is a wish that dear Alfie was still alive and there with her so that they could have grown old and equally doddery together.
“Dr Gaddas prescribed her antidepressants but yet again her stubbornness kicks in and she doesn’t take them. Luckily talking to her long standing friends they persuade her to take the doctor’s advice and she thanks them sincerely for making life seem lighter in every way.
“Now that is the message that I want people to take away from this storyline, the importance of being able to talk to people you trust about how you feel. Sometimes the young generation might think that anyone over 70 isn’t capable of making decisions which in turn can make older people lose their sense of purpose and begin to feel quite useless.
“I do hope this storyline helps older people reach out and start talking about how they feel and for younger people to be aware of how much the older generation still has to offer.”
This emotional storyline coincides with ITV’s mental health initiative, Britain Get Talking. It aims to encourage all of us to take action to proactively look after our mental health through connecting with others, with a current focus on anxiety among young people.
Jacqui Morrissey, Assistant Director of Research and Influencing at Samaritans, said: “As the last few years have been incredibly challenging, many Coronation Street fans may have found themselves struggling at times, so it’s crucial that people remember support is available, and feel able to reach out if they are finding life difficult.
"Talking about the problems you’re facing can make a massive difference, whether that’s with a close friend, family member or support line. Samaritans can be contacted 24/7, free, on 116 123, email [email protected] or visit www.samaritans.org."
And Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “This heart-breaking storyline carries an important message for all those Coronation Street viewers who are facing similar struggles to Audrey, and indeed for their families and friends too. Audrey may be a fictional character, but sadly we know that her situation is reflected in the real life difficulties a fair few people go through as they get older.
“Anyone who needs support, is worried about an older relative or friend, or wants to find out more about Age UK’s services can get in touch by calling Age UK Advice free of charge on 0800 169 6565 (8am-7pm), or they can visit www.ageuk.org.uk.
"Any older person looking for a cheerful chat can call our subsidiary charity, The Silver Line free, day or night, on 0800 470 80 90. And to register to help visit the Age UK Telephone Friendship Service."
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