Hollyoaks are lining up a special episode focusing entirely on Lily Drinkwell’s self-harming storyline next week when the teenager’s tragic secret is discovered by her classmates Yasmine Maalik and Peri Lomax.
When spiteful school bullies Yas and Peri find Lily cutting herself in the toilet cubicle, they plan to reveal their vulnerable friend’s worrying habit and write an article about an anonymous Hollyoaks High pupil who is self-harming. After reading the piece, worried headteacher Sally St Claire deduces it must be one of the trio due to their suspicious behaviour, and calls in the three girls’ parents and guardians in to discuss her fears, while Lily panics about the truth emerging.
Yasmine’s mother Misbah, Lily’s auntie Diane Hutchinson and Peri’s mum Leela refuse to believe it’s their girl who is secretly self-harming and cross swords as accusations fly.
As the girls themselves are summoned to the head’s office, Yasmine and Peri take the surprising step of covering for Lily by telling Mrs St Claire the article is fictional. While the mothers bond over their relief, the trio of teenage girls choose keep the self-harming secret – and the incident brings them closer together, with worrying consequences…
The experimental episode tells the story from the point of view of the two groups of women, showing the differing perspectives on the topic of self-harm from different generations.
For actress Lauren McQueen, whose character Lily has been self-harming since the summer without any other characters realising until now, it’s the latest development in an already hard-hitting story on which Hollyoaks has worked closely with charities Mind and the Samaritans.
“We had a workshop with the charities at the beginning of Lily self-harm plot,” she begins. “It was helpful as I had an insight into what it was, why people do it and what’s going through her mind. I spoke to a young girl who self-harmed after losing her mum, just like Lily, so I could relate to her experience.”
Hollyoaks has a rich history of exploring difficult topics affecting the lives of young people, still arguably its core audience, the show’s executive producer Bryan Kirkwood is passionate about self-harm being among the taboo subjects tackled at teatime by the groundbreaking Channel 4 soap.
“In an age of social media where people want to represent an image of perfection, despite mental health issues reaching epic proportions people are talking about this less,” he says. “We wanted to tell the story and give a voice to it.”
McQueen agrees: “I was surprised to learn how many people do it every day from my research with the charities. It’s upsetting but I feel proud Hollyoaks have the opportunity to make a whole episode about it which I hope encourages people to speak up and bring awareness.
“Even though Lily has been through a lot with losing her mum and being left with scars after the car crash which has made her self-conscious, you don’t have to have been through big things like that to start self-harming. It can be something quite small that triggers it and sets you back. Lily is the kind of girl in school you’d look at and assume has no problems, which makes it interesting she’s the one suffering with this.”
Hollyoaks airs this special episode on E4 on Tuesday 17 October at 7pm, and on Channel 4 on Wednesday 18 October at 6.30pm.