EastEnders is set to explore male postnatal depression in a new storyline featuring character Stuart Highway as he struggles to bond with his newborn son.
Ricky Champ, who plays Stuart in the BBC One soap, will portray his character’s mental health struggle as he undergoes treatment for cancer while growing concerned that he is not able to connect with his son Roland.
EastEnders bosses said they worked closely with two mental health charities so Stuart’s plight is portrayed as realistically and sensitively as possible.
Stuart, who has been a character on the soap since 2018, was diagnosed with male breast cancer last year and recently agreed to undergo treatment for the sake of his son, who he shares with wife Rainie Highway.
In the coming weeks, viewers will see him struggling to connect with Roland, eventually leading him to question his love for the child.
The programme received guidance from Mind and the Pandas Foundation, which supports parents and carers struggling to cope.
Head of Pandas, Annie Belasco, said: “Pandas Foundation were delighted to hear that EastEnders intended to produce a storyline highlighting postnatal depression in men. We enjoyed advising the team around the postnatal depression aspect of Stuart’s journey, which we feel will be relatable to many fathers struggling to bond with their baby.
“Postnatal depression in fathers is still a much undiscovered and stigmatised area, which is why it is so imperative that awareness is shared in no doubt that men who may be feeling unwell with symptoms of postnatal depression can seek the support that they need at an early interventional stage.
“A full recovery of any low level perinatal mental illness, with the right support, is possible.”
Postnatal depression is a form of depression that can affect mothers and fathers after the birth of a child.
Symptoms can include continuous low mood, a lack of energy and difficulty bonding with your baby.
Head of media and PR at Mind, Alex Bushill, said: “When people see mental health problems portrayed sensitively on screen, it raises awareness and encourages people to seek support for their mental health. So it’s great to see EastEnders dedicating airtime to exploring such an important issue.
“I hope this story helps highlight how depression can impact new dads and encourage dads to seek help if they need it. Whatever you’re going through, you’re not alone. And you deserve respect and support.”