Emmerdale’s Belle Dingle began hearing voices tonight as her family fell apart following her mum Lisa’s dramatic departure from the village, revisiting the long-running storyline of the character’s struggles with mental health that dates back to 2014.
It’s been a little while since the focus was on this challenging chapter of Belle’s life, so as the troubled teen spirals into self-doubt and threatens to relapse having been blamed for Lisa leaving, here’s a reminder of Ms Dingle’s darkest hour…
Four years ago, schoolgirl Belle’s life was changed forever when she accidentally killed her best friend Gemma Andrews. During a row on the way home from school about a boy they both fancied, Belle pushed Gemma who hit her head on a rock and later died from a head injury. Wracked with guilt, despite her family assuring her Gemma’s death was a tragic accident, Belle admitted responsibility and was sentenced to three years in a young offenders’ institute when she was aged just 15.
Belle’s sentence was reduced after an appeal and she returned to the village a changed girl. Struggling to adjust to normal life, she befriended fellow outcast Lachlan White and started dressing like a goth and becoming prone to flashes of violence and erratic mood swings.
It soon became clear there was much more to Belle’s behaviour beneath the surface when it was revealed she believed she could communicate with Gemma and was speaking to an imaginary version of her dead pal, who she claimed was forcing her into destructive antics including self-harm. Driven to despair by ‘Gemma’ telling her what to do, things came to a head when Belle almost killed her dad Zak by running him over, prompting her to admit to her parents she’d been hearing voices and an initial diagnosis from doctors she could be developing schizophrenia.
Believing she was to blame for Katie Sugden’s death, as she had caught her talking to the imaginary Gemma, Belle tried to take her own life but was saved from jumping off the top of a barn by big brother Cain. Breaking down, the tormented teen was sectioned and entered a psychiatric unit to be treated for her worsening condition.
Fast forward to 2016, some months after being released from hospital, Belle embarked on a disastrous romance with married older doctor Jermaine Bailey and lied she was pregnant in an ill-advised attempt to keep them together. Confiding in a friend called Ellie from prison about her fibs, it soon emerged Ellie was another visual hallucination as imaginary Gemma had been. Jermaine’s wife Angie exposed Belle’s deceit and she ran away after a public breakdown. Living rough and tortured by Ellie’s voice, a frail Belle was eventually picked up by the police and reunited with the Dingles. When doctors realised she was hearing multiple voices, Belle was diagnosed with schizophrenia and admitted to hospital down south.
That was 18 months ago, and until now Belle’s condition appeared to be under control – is she set to be gripped by her mental health struggle again?
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