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.
The storyline - which saw Aidan, played by Shayne Ward, take his own life off-screen after he reunited with his former fiance Eva Price - also prompted people to share their own experiences of depression and suicide on social media, while others said it had prompted them to talk to friends and family.
The story was created to highlight male depression and suicide - the biggest killer of men aged under-42, with 12 men in the UK taking their own lives every day.
Papyrus, a charity which tackles suicide in young people, said staff on its HopeLineUK service “worked relentlessly, without taking a break” to cope with the surge in demand.
Meanwhile The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) said that following the airing of the harrowing episodes on Monday and Wednesday evenings, it took on extra staff to cope with demand on its helpline and webchat.
Following the airing of the episodes, Papyrus chief executive Ged Flynn said the charity took “three times as many calls as a routine day”.
Mr Flynn praised the soap, and Ward, for the “sensitive and brave handling” of the storyline, and said it undoubtedly prompted people to come forward and ask for help.
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
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."
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.”
On social media, many users felt compelled to share their stories and urge others to speak about the issue.
I suffered severe depression for eight years, but luckily I got help and I'm back to normal, but many a time I could have ended it. It's such a cruel illness... I would definitely tell people who are suffering to go and get help, if I hadn't, I wouldn't be here today.
Our family story is almost mirror image to the one aired... We need to crumble the stigma around it [depression]. For the 12 men a day, the 84 a week, let's start talking."
I've been in Aidan's shoes many times - that deep dark place where suicide seems the only answer. After three failed attempts, I'm glad to say I'm here. Many people would never guess by looking at me or meeting me that depression has had my life in its ugly hands numerous times. I hide it so well, as do many people that are suffering. Men are especially good at hiding their feelings. It's now time they know it's ok to talk, it doesn't make you any less of a man, if anything, a stronger man. I've lost friends through suicide, my heart breaks for their families, something so devastating and life changing.
Today I decided to speak up about my battle with depression. It was hard to do, but what a weight lifted and amazing support I've received from the family and friends that I told. Thank you for highlighting the issue."
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.”
Meanwhile Samaritans praised the soap for helping to "start vital conversations".
Spokesperson Jane Bolger continued: "We hope Aidan’s story encourages people who may be suffering in silence to speak out and seek help.
"We also hope it encourages others to reach out if they’re worried about someone they know.
“People don’t always tell us what’s prompted them to call us but sometimes they do mention that they’ve been touched by something they’ve seen in a programme or reported in the news."
If you are in distress or need some support, the following charities can help: