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Presentation of mental health in soaps

Mental illness is a very serious topic which can cause a lot of suffering and also the feeling of isolation; the feeling that no-one understands you and some people may have an illness and not realise it. Recently, many soap operas have been highlighting the issue of mental disorders and the effects they have not just on the person, but also the people surrounding them.


Cindy Cunningham-
Is portrayed as having bipolar disorder, and her illness is shown to be very serious due to her having to be hospitalised. In Hollyoaks, before the development of her illness, Cindy was seen as being very outgoing but since her illness has overcome her, the character is now shown as being introverted as, because of the illness, paranoia of her family has consumed her thoughts. This has been shown to be an extremely serious issue due to the character stopping her family from seeing her, and also on a day out of the hospital with her family, Cindy was paranoid of her daughter trying to convince people she needed to be back in hospital. When this resulted in the character nearly drowning to escape her family, it showed the severity of the character’s condition as her thoughts became too irrational. However, in Hollyoaks the illness has not been presented very accurately as the illness was developed very quickly and not shown with gradual symptoms.

Jason Roscoe-
Is presented as having body dysmorphic disorder as he is shown as constantly being unhappy with his weight and the way his body looks. In a recent episode, Jason tries to talk to his brother about the way he feels about himself, however his brother only responds by telling him how vain he has become. This showed that many people do not understand this condition, and the severity of it. Also showing the typical teenage audience how serious the topic of mental illness is, was the storyline of Jason taking drugs in order to perfect his body image, however this only resulted in the character’s situation becoming worse. An extreme of his illness was shown when the character was made to take part in a boxing match, but during the match begun to hear voices laughing at his appearance, again resulting in worse conditions for the character as he fainted.
Overall, even due to some of the illnesses not being presented in exactly an accurate way, these storylines about mental illness in Hollyoaks serve to raise awareness of the serious nature of these conditions, and this should be praised, especially as the target audience of the soap is teenagers.


Sylvie Carter-
This character is shown as having the mental illness Alzheimer’s disease. Due to this, Sylvie is presented as being very vulnerable and unable to live independently, therefore needing the care of her sister. Similar to Hollyoaks, this creates the awareness that a mental illness does not just affect the individual with the disorder, but the people around them too. In this soap, it is shown that Sylvie’s Alzheimer’s affects her family more than the character herself, as she is unable to live with her entire family and cannot endure any form of tension or confrontation within her family. However, in some recent episodes, it has been revealed that Sylvie appears to be more in control of her mental illness than the audience was originally led to believe. This creates an awareness that mental illnesses can somewhat be controlled.
In my opinion, the writers in EastEnders have presented this illness quite accurately, therefore creating a more realistic view of Alzheimer’s disease.

Holby City-

Zosia March-
Is presented as having bipolar disorder, similar to the character of Cindy Cunningham which has been previously mentioned. The character of Zosia, a doctor in the hospital, was initially shown as being very enthusiastic about her work, and very emotionally attached to her patients. However, this became an obsession, and the character’s alcohol consumption only served to worsen her situation. At this point in the development of her illness, her colleagues were not aware that she was developing bipolar disorder and therefore the lack of awareness led the character on a downward spiral. Soon after this, the obsession and her heightened emotions began to affect the character’s work and productivity, leading Zosia to become dependent on drugs and alcohol. This shows the extremity of the illness, as the character’s life became very poor and when eventually, her friends realised there was something very wrong, Zosia’s father denied her having an illness. Again, this worsened her condition and she was only admitted to a hospital when things got too extreme.
Due to Holby City being a medical drama, focusing on illnesses, it is not surprising that this representation of an individual coping with bipolar disorder is the most accurate and thought provoking.

These are reviews and own opinions from one of our Virtual Volunteers.

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