The impact of male suicide is set to feature on millions of screens across the country, as part of an upcoming Coronation Street storyline
Aidan Connor, played by actor and singer Shayne Ward, is set to depart from the show during the week of May 7, with the character tragically taking his own life.
Male suicide remains the biggest killer of men aged under 45 in the UK, with 84 males taking their lives each week.
ITV bosses have stressed that no element of the suicide will be shown on screen, and that it will show Aidan's family and friends coming to terms with the shock, and questioning why they were unable to spot any signs he was struggling to cope with life.
The show's writers and production team have been working closely with leading charities Samaritans and CALM to ensure the storyline “is handled sensitively and realistically.”
Preparing for his character's exit, Shayne says Aiden is “an everyman figure” which he believes is a crucial aspect of the story.
Tomorrow we’ll be joined by @itvcorrie boss Kate Oates. Kate’s been responsible for bringing some powerful storylines into the soap, including David Platt’s rape, Bethany Platt being groomed and Phelan’s evil reign.— Lorraine (@lorraine) April 30, 2018
Do you have a question you’d like to ask her?
T&Cs apply. pic.twitter.com/6cXwyDkLhR
He said: “I am honoured to have been trusted with a storyline like this, it shows the confidence that Kate and the team had in me to be able to play it.
“When you get given a storyline like this it is a decision that is not taken lightly, I have played it with as much honesty and truth as I could. I am very proud of what I have done in my three years on the show and on this storyline in particular.
“Aidan is an ‘everyman’ figure, he is someone men can identify with, which is important in telling this story.”
Kate Oates, Coronation Street producer, says the magnitude of the issue made the soap compelled to cover it and hopes it will start important conversations in homes across the UK.
She said: “Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in this country. With 84 men taking their lives each week, we quite simply can’t afford to not talk about it.
“Aidan’s story, bravely and brilliantly tackled by Shayne Ward, is designed to give people who hide their feelings of desperation a chance to start a conversation, letting someone know what they’re going through.
“Through this story, we want to assure anyone who feels suicidal that there is always someone who wants to listen and support you: whether a friend, family member, or one of the brilliant charities we have been working with throughout this story.”
NEWS: Coronation Street is to highlight the important issue of male suicide when Aidan Connor tragically takes his own life.— Coronation Street (@itvcorrie) April 30, 2018
Read more: https://t.co/aUykbsMmHs #Corrie #AidanConnor #ShayneWard pic.twitter.com/Jon2CfjBDY
Ruth Sutherland, CEO of Samaritans, is pleased the charity was involved in storyline and highlighted how powerful soap operas are at raising awareness.
She said: “We were pleased that Coronation Street invited us to work with them on Aidan’s storyline. Suicide is clearly a very sensitive topic and one that presents some distinct challenges for producers of soaps.
“This is why Samaritans publishes media guidance and works with programme makers.
“Soaps can play an incredibly powerful role in increasing people’s awareness and understanding of difficult issues. Viewers will see the devastating impact of suicide and the effect that it has on families – it’s never the case that others would be better off without you.
“By illustrating the dangers of staying silent when it feels like life’s challenges are overwhelming, we hope others who are struggling will be encouraged to reach out for support.
“And, if viewers are worried about someone else, we hope it will inspire them to be brave and open up a conversation. You won’t make things worse, but you could start that person on the road to recovery.”
Simon Gunning, CEO of CALM, praised Coronation Street, which also covered male rape in a storyline this year.
Mr Gunning hopes the male suicide storyline will signpost people to the support they need.
He said: “The show is doing vital work in highlighting such an important issue with this storyline. Suicide is the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK, where three in every four suicides are male.
“The reasons for this are many and complex, but at CALM we focus on the cultural and societal aspects, including the pressures men face and how societal expectations can limit help seeking when life gets tough.
“Working with Coronation Street has allowed us to engage a huge audience in the devastating effect of suicide, while providing a platform to highlight the help that is available for those in need of support.”
For mental health support and to find an accredited professional near to you, visit Counselling Directory
CALM offers a helpline for men who need to talk or get further information or support. Call 0800 58 58 58 to talk to somebody, lines are open from 5pm to midnight, 365 days a year.