I’ve been where Steve McDonald is right now; and it is, without a doubt, the worst thing that I have ever felt. Even though it is estimated that a massive 1 in every 3 of us will experience first hand some form of mental health issue, there is still an alarming amount of education and awareness required on the matter of depression and anxiety.
That is why I couldn’t be more proud of Britain’s top soap, Coronation Street, for tackling this issue head on with the sensitivity, honesty and realism that it is currently expressing. Those millions of you who read my soap musings both here and on social media will know that I have been fairly critical of Coronation Street over the last few months. But where it has been lacking in other areas, it has more than redeemed itself in this particular storyline.
For quite some time, and very subtly, we have seen Steve struggle with his moods to the point where he currently finds himself at; thoroughly sapped of the joy and energy that the character is famous for. Simon Gregson is playing a blinder of a performance with this story he’s been given; it is a huge challenge to portray accurately but I recognise so much in Steve. From the blocking out of important everyday worries to the emptiness in his eyes and the lost expression on his face, Steve is a broken man. And yet, the regular comments and tweets I am seeing from people saying ‘What is even wrong with Steve?’ and ‘Steve needs to man up and pull himself together’ proves that many people still don’t really understand the horrendous effects depression can have on the sufferer and on the people around them.
The people tweeting ‘Carla has been through much worse and you don’t see her going on like Steve.’ are not being malicious or tactless; it’s just that there is still a genuine stigma around metal health that perceives people who are overcome by depression as being weak. As Corrie is setting out to prove, that is far from the case. Steve isn’t just being miserable or feeling sorry for himself; he is ill. And that illness is preventing him from feeling any pleasure or hope in life. He is being swallowed by a darkness that really cannot be described in words and it is heart-rending to watch.