A suicide prevention charity helpline experienced its “busiest day ever” after troubled Coronation Street character Aidan Connor killed himself, prompting a flood of requests for help from young people.
Papyrus, which provides trained support for callers to its HopeLineUK service, said staff “worked relentlessly, without taking a break” to cope with the surge in demand.
Charity chief executive Ged Flynn told the Press Association there were “three times as many calls as a routine day” after Monday night’s episodes, and the subsequent instalment on Wednesday when Aidan’s family and friends made the grim discovery.
Mr Flynn praised the soap, and actor Shayne Ward, for the “sensitive and brave handling” of the storyline, and said it undoubtedly prompted people to come forward and ask for help.
He said: “There is strong evidence that says when something like suicide affects a cherished person perhaps in the public eye, it encourages others to seek help – and we’ve certainly seen that here.
“Our advisers were in all day and they worked relentlessly – none of them took a break due to the sheer number of people phoning up, texting, leaving voicemails, asking for help.
“I think the storyline – the way it was sensitively handled without being sensationalised – the way Aidan’s character was portrayed on screen, and the subsequent coverage in the media clearly affected a lot of people.
“If people have seen it happen to a popular person, in this case a soap character, it really relates to people and makes them think: ‘It can happen to me, too’.
“Sometimes we don’t share our feelings – if we’re having a bad day, perhaps suffering with mental health issues. Shayne has helped break that stigma, and I think he deserves praise for the way he’s engaged with people on social media as well.”
After Wednesday’s episode, the 33-year-old actor reached out to fans for their bravery in opening up about their problems, and said he hopes the conversation will continue.
Ward – whose own family has been touched by suicide, the leading cause of death in young people – said he sought out a therapist to help him understand it better before shooting the harrowing scenes.
But he said filming still took him to a dark place.
“This is affecting millions of people around the world every single day, and when I read the stats I couldn’t believe it,” he told The Sun.
“So when I’m getting into that place, it’s a really, really dark place which again breaks my heart.
“You feel that there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
“You feel lost, you feel hopeless, powerless, unloved and you feel like you can never make things right.”
Mr Flynn said: “Suicide is no soap opera. Papyrus knows only too well the unimaginable pain that many young people are experiencing.
“We believe that everyone can help to prevent suicide, not least by opening a conversation with young people about keeping suicide-safe.
“Many young people, like Aidan, feel they need to keep silent. Papyrus asks us all to shatter the silence around suicide and help to save young lives.”
– The Papyrus HopeLineUK is available on 0800 068 4141