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Note: this article contains personal mental health experiences that may be distressing for some.
Sean Slater’s [Robert Kazinsky] short return to the BBC One soap EastEnders has been an interesting one. Kazinsky returned last week to see his family, mainly his mum, Jean [Gillian Wright], who has cancer. Little did the fans know the representation of male mental health was going to become the main focus of his return.
In Friday May third's episode, Sean was seen hiding in a barn, gripping onto a rifle as he contemplated taking his own life before being talked out of it by his mum with Stacey [Lacey Turner]. The dialogue between Sean and Jean was something so powerful that it was emotional to watch. Some of Jean’s wise words were:
“Whatever life gives you, something in there is a little glimmer. Now you find it and you grab it and you hold it tight. Whatever it is, it will grow. Now you take the people who love you and you hold them to you. Whatever you’re feeling right now, it will pass.”
Male mental health is something that is not represented enough on television today. Shows like EastEnders, Coronation Street, and Bodyguard are examples of shows that have started talking about the sensitive subject and representing male suicide. Suicide is the leading cause of death among men under the age of 45 (NHS England), and talking about it is the most important thing we can do to stop this.
Earlier on this year, I published an article on Vocal Media talking about my own mental health, and how I contemplated suicide twice. When my mental health reached breaking point, I was lost for words, lost for thoughts, and my brain closed off completely, leaving me with no control whatsoever. In January I said:
“Mentally and physically, it was a rough night. From forty mile an hour winds to high waves, this night changed my life in two ways. My life could have ended, but instead made me realise I’m not alone. I stood on the edge of the pier watching the huge waves slam into the sea walls. The rain started to fall as I contemplated taking my own life. Me, a twenty-one-year-old deciding whether or not to take my own life? That’s not right.”
After watching this week’s EastEnders, it has influenced my mental health and has made it known that I’ve still got a whole life out there ahead of me. The writing has impacted me so much that I now realise suicide isn’t the way to solve problems. Somewhere, something is waiting for me. Whether that’s my dream career, a family or just happiness, it’s something I will need to grab onto so tightly, and never let go of. Ever.
Those of you that have read my book, or know me personally know exactly what I’ve been through in the last seven months. Losing someone that wasn’t just incredibly close to me, but was a family member caused my mental health to deteriorate so bad that I didn’t know what to do.
As Jean in EastEnders proved, talking to someone with mental health can change a person’s life in such an incredible way. Talk about the weather, talk about our hobbies with us. Just general chat will open up our minds to see that "little glimmer" that we must grab and hold on tight to.
If you haven’t done so already, or don’t watch EastEnders in general, just take thirty minutes of your time to watch the hard-hitting episode. Why? It will change your perspective of mental health, and what people like myself go through on a daily basis. Mental health awareness week in the UK is May 13th to May 19th this year. Do your bit to raise awareness, and say a simple hello to someone.